Six New York hospitals have agreed to repay sexual assault victims who were illegally charged as much as $3,000 for rape examinations that should've been billed to the state or their insurers, Attorney General Barbara Underwood said Thursday. The hospitals—five in New York City and the other in suburban Rockland County—wrongly billed victims for at least 200 forensic rape exams in recent years and had collections agencies go after some women who failed to pay, Underwood says, per the AP. "Survivors of sexual assault have already gone through unfathomable trauma," says Underwood, a Democrat. "To then subject them to illegal bills and collection calls is unconscionable."
The hospitals have agreed to enact new billing policies to ensure that going forward victims don't get charged. Each hospital will pay a fine of up to $15,000. The federal Violence Against Women Act prohibits hospitals from charging assault survivors for rape kits. New York law mandates that hospitals instead bill the state's Office of Victim Services unless a victim decides to have the cost covered by insurance. Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, which billed at least 24 victims for rape exams between January 2016 and November 2017 and sent 19 to collections, says that under its new policy it won't charge the state or insurance companies, either. (A former Planet Fitness employee sued the company over alleged sexual harassment and rape.)