Today, the Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) announced a plan to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests. In order to stop billing victims, the plan streamlines the funding source through the Crime Victim's Reparation Board (CVRB). Through legislation, these changes will prevent direct billing of charges to the victim by allowing hospitals to bill the Crime Victim's Reparation Board directly.
Under current law, the board may not accept bills for additional medical expenses directly from the provider, which forces hospitals to treat victims of sexual assault like a normal emergency room patient and bill them for additional services.
Additionally, victims who decide not to file a police report are currently ineligible for reimbursement from the Crime Victims' Reparation Board. Victims of sexual assault may not have decided at the time services are rendered whether they will file a police report. In fact, some victims decide ultimately not to file a report at all.
First, the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement (LCLE) will promulgate rules immediately to address two issues:
- Exclude from the determination of medical compensation or other awards for victims of sexual assault the circumstances under which the crime was committed, such as what the victim was wearing, marital status and the presence of illegal drugs or alcohol, among other things.
- Establish that victims of sexual assault may choose not to seek reimbursement from private insurance, Medicaid or other collateral sources in order to be eligible for reparations. In some cases, victims do not want documentation related to the sexual assault.
Second, the administration will work with the Legislature to change the law to address two issues:
- Prohibit billing victims of sexual assault and authorizing hospitals to bill the Board directly.
- Remove the requirement that victims of sexual assault file a police report to be eligible for reimbursement.
"Over the last few weeks, so many leaders have come to the table ready to discuss how we support sexual assault survivors and how care is provided to them. I am encouraged by the commitment of everyone we've worked with and am confident that we can support the legislature in making changes to improve care for survivors," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert.
"There is so much work to do on so many different levels, but it appears the commitment is there to end the mistreatment of rape victims when it comes to unacceptable billing practices. There are policy changes that can be worked on now through LDH and on the legislative side, I am prepared to author any needed legislation to resolve this issue including revising the Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Fund," said Representative Helena Moreno.
"It's heartening to see so many different groups-public, private and nonprofit-come together to work on definitive solutions regarding this outrageous situation with rape exams and billing. Swift, decisive action is what our citizens expect and deserve on this issue," said Senator J.P. Morrell.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.