Going to the hospital following a sexual assault can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing, but for 85 survivors who received forensic rape examinations at the Brooklyn Hospital Medical Center, the experience was also unlawfully costly. Thankfully, those patients will be reimbursed after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office reached an agreement with the hospital on Tuesday, The Cut reports.
In a press release, Schneiderman stated that patients who visited the hospital between January 2015 and February 2017 were "illegally billed" for emergency care that under New York law is to be paid for through the state's Office of Victim Services or through private insurance. During a press conference on Tuesday (the AG's office provided Refinery29 with this link, should you want to view), Schneiderman claimed that the cost of these services averaged $900.
"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," Schneiderman said in a statement. "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."
In a statement provided to Refinery29, Brooklyn Hospital claimed that "an inadvertent breakdown in our billing processes" was to blame for the improper billing and that they will comply with a Sexual Assault Victim Policy to ensure similar errors are avoided in the future.
"Working closely and transparently with the Attorney General's Office, the hospital designed interdisciplinary processes and protocols to ensure that these billing issues do not occur again and to reflect not only our compliance with the law, but also our longstanding commitment to victims of sexual assault," the statement read. "We appreciate the efforts of the Attorney General's office and thank them for their collaboration and advocacy."
Schneiderman stated that his work is far from over and that he and his team are currently looking into the billing practices of other hospitals across the state. He also tweeted a request that anyone who has been billed for sexual assault care contact his office at 1-800-428-9071.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).