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Bronx hospital settles suit after illegally billing for rape exams

BronxCare Health System will repay patients who were wrongly charged in 2016 and 2017.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday that the state reached a settlement with BronxCare Health System for illegally billing sexaul assault victims for forensic rape exams. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Rape victims who were improperly billed for medical services at a Bronx hospital will be reimbursed under a settlement agreement announced by Attorney General Letitia James.

James said Tuesday that BronxCare Health System will establish a written policy stating that sexual assault patients will not be charged for rape examinations and will repay patients who were wrongly charged in addition to paying $15,000 to the New York State Department of Law.

“The trauma of sexual assault is more than enough for a survivor to bear,” James said in a statement. “The secondary trauma of fighting an illegal bill for a forensic rape exam is unfathomable and we will not allow it to continue.”

From Jan. 10, 2016, to Dec. 26, 2017, the hospital conducted 111 forensic rape examinations, none of which were filed with the Office of Victim Services. The settlement shows that 17 patients who received these examinations were improperly billed, with some receiving bills from two different departments, and none received proper advisement on payment options.

The hospital bills cost victims between $35 to $1,957 as 10 patients directly received a hospital bill as well as a bill through their insurance companies, and 12 patients had bills sent to collections. BronxCare emergency room physicians separately billed 13 of the 17 patients, costing the victims an additional $181 to $506. The insurance companies of two patients also received emergency room bills and the physicians sent 12 bills to collections.

Under the Office of Victim Services law, the only time a victim should be charged for their rape examination is if they opt for their private insurance company to cover the cost of the exam. Otherwise, medical facilities are supposed to charge the Office of Victim Services for the service. The law is meant to improve privacy for sexual assault victims with the hope that more victims will be willing to go through a rape examination so investigators are better able to identify perpetrators, the attorney general's office said.

“Let me be clear: hospitals have a fundamental responsibility to comply with New York law,” James said. “My office will continue to do everything in our power to protect survivors and their rights.”

A BronxCare spokesperson said the case was the result of a billing error that occured throughout 2016 and 2017 and was "no different than the settlements at the other eight hospitals throughout the metropolitan area." 

"The issue is now resolved at our hospital, and standards were previously enhanced to prevent this type of situation from occurring in the future," the spokesperson said. "Our staff also fully understands the standards in place regarding this most sensitive process."

The settlement with BronxCare is the ninth to be reached in the attorney general office's investigation into the billing practices of all medical facilities within the state. The investigation started in 2017 when then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reached a settlement with the Brooklyn Hospital Medical Center for conducting the same illegal practice.

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