A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that when victims of rape or sexual violence seek emergency medical assistance following an attack, they may be saddled with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in medical bills, reports Vox.
The roughly 112,800 patients discovered by the study who were seen for sexual assault who visited the ER in 2019 were charged an average of $3,551, with even higher averages for pregnant patients ($4,553).
Uninsured victims, who numbered over 17,000 in 2019, faced out-of-pocket charges averaging $3,673. Insured patients had lower out-of-pocket bills, but prior research suggests that even those with private insurance paid about 14 percent of their bill on average, roughly $500.
While the costs associated with a sexual assault forensic exam, also called a “rape kit”, the first of the two typical kinds of care received in these cases, are covered by public funds under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the act doesn’t cover the second: therapeutic care, or whatever is medically necessary for a person’s health following an attack.
The study authors suggest expanding VAWA to cover therapeutic services, not just evidence collection, and paying greater attention to privacy concerns of survivors. These bills can further traumatize victims, the study authors warn, and deter others from seeking professional help.
Nearly 90 percent of the patients included in the study were female, and 38 percent were children under 18.
Additional Reading: DOJ Earmarks $225M for Victims of Domestic, Sex Violence