Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlement With Brooklyn Hospital To Ensure Rape Survivors Are No Longer Illegally Billed For Forensic Rape Examinations

Hospital Will Pay Restitution To Patients & Change Billing Procedures
A.G. Sends Letters To Additional NY Hospitals Seeking Info On Policies
Schneiderman: Survivors Are Entitled To Cost-Free Emergency Care Under New York Law  
  Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced an agreement with The Brooklyn Hospital Medical Center (“Brooklyn Hospital”) after an investigation that revealed the hospital illegally billed sexual assault survivors for forensic rape examinations. As part of the settlement, Brooklyn Hospital will maintain a Sexual Assault Victim Policy that prevents such improper billing, and will provide full restitution to improperly billed sexual assault survivors.
Attorney General Schneiderman has also sent letters to 10 additional hospitals across New York State seeking information on their policies. Attorney General Schneiderman reminded New Yorkers that survivors of sexual assault are entitled to cost-free emergency care under New York law, which requires those services to be provided free of charge through the state’s Office of Victim Services.
“It’s hard to imagine the heartache and anxiety a survivor must feel having to fight a collection agency over an unlawful bill for a rape kit. It’s unacceptable, and we will not allow it to continue,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I want to be clear: survivors of sexual assault are entitled to cost-free emergency care under New York law – and we will do everything possible to ensure they get the respect and care they deserve.”
Attorney General Schneiderman initiated an investigation after receiving a complaint that a survivor of sexual assault was billed seven separate times by Brooklyn Hospital for a forensic rape exam administered in Brooklyn Hospital’s emergency room.
The Attorney General’s investigation further revealed that between January 2015 and February 2017, Brooklyn Hospital conducted 86 forensic rape exams – and in 85 out of those 86 cases, the hospital either improperly billed the patient directly, or billed the patient’s insurance plan without advising the patient of their payment options as required by law. Brooklyn Hospital had sent some of these improper bills to collection. Click here to read the settlement agreement.
New York State Executive Law Section 631(13) provides that when a hospital furnishes services -- including a forensic rape examination (FRE) – to any sexual assault survivor, it shall provide such services to the patient without charge and shall bill the Office of Victim Services (OVS) directly, or alternatively, the sexual assault survivor may voluntarily opt to assign the costs to private insurance. The purpose of Executive Law 631(13) is to ease payment of FREs by providing for submission of bills to OVS; provide quality exams; and give survivors of sexual assault the ability to choose a means of payment for their FREs, either through the OVS program or their own insurance. Allowing sexual assault survivors to choose to have OVS directly pay for services helps ensure privacy and confidentiality. This increased privacy increases the likelihood that a survivor will submit to the FRE, which in turn increases the ability of law enforcement agencies to identify offenders.
“It is unconscionable that a survivor who undergoes an intensive rape kit collection process would then receive a bill in the mail to pay for her own rape kit. What other crime victims must cover the costs of their own crime investigations? This goes to the very heart of blaming the victim, and we commend A.G. Schneiderman for stopping this illegal practice in its tracks,” said Sonia Ossorio President NOW-NY.
Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families, said, “At Sanctuary for Families, we assist survivors of many forms of gender violence, including domestic  violence, sex trafficking, and sexual assault. We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for uncovering the untenable practice of charging sexual assault survivors for forensic rape examinations. Institutions like hospitals should be places of refuge and healing for gender violence survivors. Victims should not be re-traumatized by receiving a bill for the collection of evidence used to find and prosecute the person who assaulted them.”
“Survivors of sexual assault should not have to pay for an evidence gathering medical exam. New York State law provides for direct payment through its Office of Victim Service for all sexual assault medical exams,” said Mary Haviland,Esq., Executive Director, NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault. “A hospital may not charge the patient for that exam. We applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for taking the initiative to make sure that charging survivors of sexual assault for medical exams does not take place in New York State.”
“No survivor of sexual assault who consents to a Forensic Rape Exam should ever receive a bill for medical services that NYS hospitals are obligated to provide. Receiving an underserved notice from a collections agency is a traumatizing reminder of a devastating event, and completely unnecessary. As NYS's oldest Rape Crisis program, CVTC praises the actions of the Attorney General's Office in ensuring that every survivor of sexual assault has access to the free medical exam promised by New York State,” said Christopher E. Bromson, Executive Director, Crime Victims Treatment Center.
Safe Horizon CEO Ariel Zwang said, “Rape survivors deserve expert and immediate medical care after an assault, including access to a rape kit. The Violence Against Women Act requires states to pay for these sexual assault forensic exams—there should be no cost to survivors. For so long, survivors and victim advocates fought to change the law so that survivors would not incur the cost of these important exams. We applaud the Attorney General’s office for ensuring enforcement of this law, holding hospitals accountable who have unnecessarily charged for this exam, and standing up for survivors.”
"The Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims thanks the Attorney General for ensuring state mandated free forensic rape exams for survivors of sexual assault. This law is of the utmost importance for survivors, and no medical facility should consider itself exempt,” said Kimberly Sanchez, Co-chair, Legislative Committee, Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims.
New Yorkers with complaints regarding hospital billing or other health-care related issues may contact the Attorney General’s Health Care Helpline at 1-800-428-9071.

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