Rape victims pay for hospital care in Louisiana

Photo credit: NOLA.com | The Times Picayune
Photo credit: NOLA.com | The Times Picayune

Some rape victims pay out of pocket for their emergency medical services in Louisiana because of recent changes in hospital ownership, according to advocates at the New Orleans Family Justice Center.

Our partners at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune report the bills can add up to thousands of dollars.

Click here to read their full report.

Advocates point to unclear federal and state guidelines that say victims should not pay for care related to sex crimes, but the guidelines do not explain exactly what falls under that care.

"The last thing they want to worry about is, are they going to receive a bill for this," said Mary Claire Landry, the executive director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center.

However, survivors, such as a woman who spoke to Fox 8's partners at NOLA.com / The Times Picayune, are being sent home from the hospital with mounting bills.

"I woke up with him assaulting me, and it continued. And as it continued, I was in and out of consciousness," a woman said. Her identity is being kept hidden for her protection. "When I got to the hospital, I asked the woman in the ER, the triage nurse. I've been raped. How much is this going to cost me to get an exam and to get treated. And she just looked at me and just said, 'you need to be seen.' If she had told me this could cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars, I very well would have turned around and went home."

Landry said the invoices are a new phenomenon, which started when the state made the move from public hospitals to private ones.

"We've had some privatization. I think when it was the Charity Hospital System they absorbed a lot of those costs as they did with a lot of public services that they were providing," said Landry.

Landry said the best way to solve the problem will be to clear up the guidelines and figure out exactly what falls into the category of sexual assault related care.

The State Department of Health and Hospitals said it plans to help.

"What we have right now is a system that is really disjointed. The result of inconsistent policies between local governments and the failing legacy charity health system that we sought to reform when we implemented the LSU public private partnership," said DHH Spokesperson Olivia Watkins.

Advocates said nothing, especially the hospital system, should prevent victims from coming forward, or prevent a sexual assault from being investigated like other crimes.

"When you're going for help at a time when you're already traumatized and then to receive a bill of thousands of dollars later, I think is just - I just think we can do better by rape victims," said Landry.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there are resources for you. You can call the New Orleans Family Justice Center, which has a 24-hour crisis hotline for victims. The number is 504-866-9554.

To learn more, click here to read the full report on NOLA.com.

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