By Laurel Wamsley
November 28, 2017
An investigation by New York’s attorney general found that the Brooklyn Hospital Center improperly billed dozens of patients for the cost of forensic rape exams.
The exams, known as rape kits, are required by state law to be free of cost to patients. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office said Tuesday that between January 2015 and February 2017, the hospital conducted 86 forensic rape exams. It billed the patients or their insurance plans in 85 of those cases, without revealing that the exam could be free.
Schneiderman said he launched the investigation after one victim complained that she had been billed seven times for a forensic rape exam performed at the hospital’s emergency room. After receiving the initial bill, the patient contacted a victim’s assistance organization, which reached out to the state’s Office of Victim Services, which told the hospital that the state should be billed. A month later, the patient got a bill from a collection agency.
New York’s Office of Victim Services covers the cost of emergency care for survivors of sexual assault. The attorney general’s office said it did not have details on how the victim services office funded its programs.
Ariel Zwang, CEO of victim assistance organization Safe Horizon, welcomed Schneiderman’s announcement.
“Rape survivors deserve expert and immediate medical care after an assault, including access to a rape kit,” she said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”