The Minnesota attorney general is warning hospitals in the state about billing sexual assault victims for forensic medical exams after a survey of hospitals found they were seemingly unwittingly violating state and federal law, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Lori Swanson told hospitals they must refund any wrongly billed fees, including facilities fees.
The attorney general took action after the local advocacy group The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Violence found some hospitals in state were violating state and federal laws barring providers from billing patients for sexual assault exams. The group has surveyed 139 healthcare providers throughout the state. It's working with data gathered by its Medical Forensic Exam Access Project (PDF).
The project's coordinator, Kari Ogrodowski, said in a statement (PDF) that it was startling how inconsistent state hospitals were in their knowledge and ability to provide medical forensic exams to sexual assault victims.
"Some victims have access to high-quality exams by a healthcare professional who has received specialized training to conduct these medical forensic exams, whereas victims in other parts of the state will present at their town's hospital and be told they need to go to a different facility—oftentimes many miles away—in order to receive an exam.”
Nine of the respondents said that victim's insurance was "sometimes" or "often" used to pay for the exam without prior consent from the victim, which is also a violation of state law.
The Minnesota Hospital Association assisted MNCASA in drafting and distributing the survey to hospitals and has since helped educate members about billing procedures, according to the hospital's website.
Minnesota isn't the only state dealing with concerns over quality of healthcare for sexual assault victims.
In July, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, raised concerns about the availability of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners at hospitals that serve her constituents in Washington state. Advocates say a lack of resources has made this a problem nationwide.