The local chapter of the National Organization for Women blasts the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals saying the agency took no action to protect victims of sexual assault. This, after a policy change allowed for victims to be billed for related medical services at hospitals.
Shock and outrage. Those are two words to describe how the president of the Louisiana chapter of NOW feels after learning about the billing of rape victims for medical services. Charlotte Klasson released a strongly-worded message Sunday criticizing the policy.
NOW member Bethany VanKampen says, "I think it should send a clear message. I think we expect and demand more from DHH to protect women's health."
VanKampen continues, "Financial concern should be the least thing on someone's mind when they're living through this experience."
News first broke last week that victims of sex crimes were getting medical bills for thousands of dollars after receiving treatment at hospitals.
Mary Claire Landry, Director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center, says, "We know it's affecting many, many more people than what's being reported that we know of."
Landry says at Interim LSU Hospital, the practice started last year when the state turned control of the hospital over from Louisiana State University to a private entity.
She says in the few days since word has gotten out about this, her organization has been inundated with calls. "It's been amazing to me, you never quite know what's going to peak peoples interests but I think this really affects people," said Landry.
Landry has been in close contact with local lawmakers who she says are working feverishly to come up with a solution. "We're going to do more research in terms of exactly what the federal regulations say, look at what our state laws say and then look at the policies and procedures across the state and see if we need additional legislation," Landry explained.
In the meantime, the National Organization for Women hopes more advocates and victims jump into this fight. Bethany VanKampen says, "I would like this to be empowering for women to come forward and come out with their story and help right this wrong."
A spokeswoman for Interim LSU Hospital told our partners at NOLA.com, Times Picayune, the hospital doesn't charge patients for costs associated with the collection of evidence or a pelvic exam. But it does bill for related tests to learn if the victim is pregnant or has HIV.