Last Saturday, I wrote a blog post about a news story originally reported by a Houston television station and picked up by CNN, stating that Texas was charging victims for their own rape kits. Since then, word has come in that the news was inaccurate and false.
To start, the Texas Attorney General denied the story:
Importantly, last year the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund has provided reimbursement for more than 8,500 sexual assault exams and sexual assault examination kits. These exams help preserve crucial evidence that law enforcement uses to identify the perpetrators after an innocent victim has been sexually assaulted. For years the Fund has covered, and will continue to cover the costs of sexual assault forensic examinations and kits.
Unfortunately, a Houston television station recently broadcast a misleading and inaccurate story that has caused confusion within the crime victim services community. As a result, some sexual assault survivors-and the organizations that serve them-are unsure about the services that are available to victims.
This message is intended to reassure all interested parties that the Crime Victim Compensation Fund has always covered the costs associated with sexual assault examinations. And that practice will continue.
Normally, I’d be extraordinarily skeptical of such a denial. And I was. But the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault has put out their own statement, saying in part:
TAASA is concerned that this misinformation will have a chilling effect on a rape victim’s willingness to report the crime and get a forensic/medical exam (rape kit). We want to assure everyone that the cost of a forensic exam is not billed to the victim. This is always the responsibility of law enforcement and they in turn can be reimbursed for up to $700 though the Crime Victim’s Compensation (CVC) fund. If the cost exceeds this amount it is absorbed by the law enforcement agency or hospital, not the victim.
Additional medical treatment is not part of the forensic exam and billed separately. All crime victims, i.e. rape, gunshot, mugging, etc. are billed for medical treatment. They are eligible to apply for reimbursement of these costs through the CVC fund. The CVC fund is statutorily the “payer of last resort,” so if a victim has medical insurance it will be billed first. This is to assure the fiscal integrity of the CVC fund and make certain that funds remain available to crime victims who are uninsured or underinsured. Rape victims are not singled out in this process for reimbursement, it is consistently applied to all crime victims and this process is replicated with few variations across the country.
And I can only assume that unlike a government agency looking to shrug off really bad press, a victim’s advocacy organization would have no reason to lie to those for whom they’re advocating.
In the case of the woman reported on in the story, her billing was reportedly an error on the part of the hospital, not the state.
As I stated in the previous post, this actually is a problem in numerous states throughout the country. Victim’s advocates have been talking about it for a long time and working to change it in those states where it is actually occurring. But thankfully, it seems that Texas is one less state to worry about. Which is at least something.
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