Minnesota AG wants hospitals to repay sex assault victims billed for their exams

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Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is reminding Minnesota hospitals that it's illegal for them to bill sexual assault victims for their forensic exams.

Swanson said Friday her letter to the state's major hospital systems was meant to clarify some confusion about the law, MPR News reports.

Some of that confusion was revealed by a report the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault released earlier this month. A survey by the Coalition found various discrepancies around the state in assault victims' access to exams, the quality of those exams, and billing practices.

Minnesota law requires the county where a sexual assault occurred to cover the cost of the victim's exam.

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Swanson says the law is meant not only to protect victims from a financial burden, but also to remove an obstacle that might otherwise discourage them from coming forward to report the crime, the Star Tribune reports.

KSTP says Swanson's letter to the hospitals also includes a list of questions about their billing process for the forensic exams and requests a response within two weeks. The Attorney General's office plans to identify hospitals that have been billing victims to help those women seek repayment.

This week the Omaha World-Herald reported on a bill the Nebraska Legislature is considering that would establish a state fund to pay the costs of sexual assault victims' exams. Advocates for victims tell the newspaper some women have discovered their insurance companies were billed $1,000 or more for the exams.

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Sexual assault victims don't need to pay for exams – but many still don't get one

About 1,400 people each year were treated in Minnesota hospitals for sexual violence from 2010 to 2014.