FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Shocked and outraged was the reaction of Charlotte Klasson, President of the Louisiana Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), when she learned that victims of rape were being charged exorbitant bills for forensic medical examinations.
"This is a sort of political extortion to discourage the pursuit of prosecution of crimes of sexual assault," said Klasson.
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) reported on Sunday, September 28, that hospitals are now billing rape victims who undergo forensic examinations, sometimes in excess of $2,000, for the exams and related treatment. It was explained that at Interim LSU, the costs of these exams had historically been absorbed by the hospital, but it began billing the victims after the state turned control of the hospital over to a private entity, Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, last year. And, while victims may apply for some reimbursement from the Crime Victims’ Reparations Fund, they are required to report the attack to law enforcement. Because of the nature of a sexual assault, many victims are hesitant to initiate involvement in the criminal justice system where many aspects of the prosecution become public record.
According to Klasson, the Department of Health and Hospital failed to respond proactively by addressing this issue when it initially became a problem last year before the 2014 Legislative Session, but allegedly promised to work on legislative solutions in the future. However, the State Legislature won’t convene again until April, 2015. In the meantime, unless DHH takes some administrative action, this problem for rape victims will persist.
"The State knew or should have known that this was a major policy change when it was adopted over a year ago, and took no action to address the interests of rape victims, most of whom are women. If DHH had wanted to deliberately develop a system to punish women crime victims, they couldn't have thought of a more effective way. This is yet another assault on women’s access to health services, typical of this Administration, in the war on women," Klasson said.
"And shame on NOPD and the District Attorney’s Office, those public offices with primary responsibility for the prosecution of crimes, for not taking action to correct this abusive treatment of crime victims," Klasson added.
Fortunately, Klasson noted, we have two elected officials who are sensitive to and supportive of the safety and health needs of women. Sen. J.P. Morrell and Rep. Helena Moreno have committed to seek legislative solutions.