NYACK HOSPITAL ILLEGALLY BILLED RAPE SURVIVORS FOR FORENSIC EXAMS
Unbelievable, Shame on you, Emotional and Physical Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Hospital
December 4, 2018
NYACK, NY — Seven New York Hospitals, including Montefiore Nyack Hospital, have settled with the state Attorney General's Office after an investigation into unlawful bills to rape survivors for forensic rape examinations.
Under the terms of the agreements, the hospitals will implement written policies to ensure that sexual assault survivors do not receive bills for their rape examinations, provide full restitution to any improperly billed sexual assault survivors, and pay costs.
"Survivors of sexual assault have already gone through unfathomable trauma; to then subject those to illegal bills and collection calls is unconscionable," said Attorney General Barbara Underwood. "Hospitals have a fundamental responsibility to comply with New York law. My office will continue to do everything in our power to protect survivors and their rights." The investigation into the hospitals follows last year's benchmark settlement with The Brooklyn Hospital Medical Center ("Brooklyn Hospital"), which was initiated after the Attorney General's Office received a complaint that a survivor of sexual assault was billed seven separate times for a forensic rape examination administered in Brooklyn Hospital's emergency room.
The investigation into Brooklyn Hospital prompted the Attorney General to launch a statewide investigation of billing practices for FREs at other hospitals. The investigation found pervasive failures to advise patients of their payment options, and widespread unlawful billing of sexual assault survivors. "When the Alliance spoke to Attorney General's office about a survivor who had been wrongly charged for a forensic exam, we believed it was an isolated case. A lot of credit must go to the New State Attorney General for investigating this issue and unearthing numerous violations of this law," said Mary Haviland, Esq., Executive Director, NYC Alliance against Sexual Assault. "The law is clear. It directs hospitals to charge the New York State Office of Victim Services for all sexual assault forensic exams. No survivor of sexual assault should be charged for a forensic exam in a hospital Emergency Room."
The ongoing investigation has already revealed at least 200 unlawfully billed FREs at the seven settling hospitals; the bills ranged from approximately $46 to $3,000 each. In addition to Montefiore Nyack Hospital, those hospitals include Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Columbia University, New York Presbyterian/Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Richmond University Medical Center, and St. Barnabas Hospital. New York State Executive Law Section 631(13) provides that when a hospital furnishes services – including a forensic rape examination – 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.