- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal directed a state crime victim’s board Tuesday to pay hospitals, health centers and doctor’s offices for sexual assault victims’ medical exams, in an effort to keep victims from being hit with bills that can total thousands of dollars.

Advocacy groups and state lawmakers have called it outrageous and improper to bill rape victims for their forensic medical exams, and they’ve called for changes to state law and health care policies.

Jindal’s executive order is a stopgap measure, designed to address the criticism until a more sweeping set of law changes can be debated in the next legislative session, which begins in April.

Some hospitals don’t seek payment from rape victims for their medical exams, while others treat the victims like any other emergency room patient and bill them or their insurance companies for care.

The governor’s order seeks to funnel those repayment claims to the Crime Victim’s Reparation Board. Jindal’s action requires the board to revise its policies, so a health care provider can seek reimbursement for the sexual assault exam from the board.

But questions remain about whether hospitals and clinics will send their payment claims to the board - and about what costs are included in a forensic medical exam.

“There is additional language that we’re going to work on in legislation that will make all of that a lot clearer,” said Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert.

Kliebert’s department and the Louisiana State Police were charged by Jindal with leading a group to define what costs will be considered part of the forensic medical exam and reimbursable by the board.

“There’s a lot of controversy about exactly what does that include. Does it include pregnancy testing? Does it include any type of blood testing or other auxiliary kind of services?” Kliebert said.

Jindal’s order also calls on the health department to coordinate a sexual assault response plan for each of the state’s nine regional health districts by Feb. 1, to outline minimum standards for handling rape kits and to ensure rape victims have access to a medical exam.

The health department announced in October it intends to ask lawmakers to require health care providers to bill the crime reparation board for rape exams. It also wants lawmakers to remove any requirement that victims file a police report to be eligible to have those costs covered.

“Much more is left to be done, and I look forward to continuing the process to improve care and services for victims of sexual assault,” Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, said in a statement. Moreno is expected to sponsor the legislation.

Thirty-two states pay for sexual assault forensic examinations through a victim’s compensation program, and 38 states prohibit health care providers from charging victims for the exams, according to Washington-based AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women.

Louisiana’s Crime Victim’s Reparation Board gets money from a fine levied in criminal court cases. State officials are trying to determine if the board will have enough money from those fines to pay for the forensic medical exams.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide