Louisiana Rape Victims are Facing Thousands of Dollars in Medical Bills for Testing and Treatment

by Hannah Baxter

 It seems like a given that a victim of sexual assault should never, ever have to pay for the tests and treatments that attempt to lessen the horror of her experience. Apparently, that is not the case in several states around the country, most noticeably in Louisiana. Recent victims who entered hospitals, like Interim LSU which recently became part of the private entity Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, have received bills upwards of $2,000, sometimes months after their visit. Confusion over how to process rape victim charges as well as the state’s administrative rules for covering costs of forensic medical exams contribute to the growing number of cases of women who are responsible for paying their own hospital bills. 


Louisiana is one of six states that require local parishes and counties to finance forensic exams. Thirty-two others pay through state victim compensation funds; six utilize a reimbursement program; five depend on law enforcement agencies; three have other state agencies that handle the fees. Wyoming and Texas use a combination of law enforcement and other programs. 


Lacking a statewide system breeds policy inconsistencies from hospital to hospital, leaving victims vulnerable to endured costs from tests that are not always considered standard procedure for a forensic exam. These can include a pregnancy test and HIV testing, two items that are obviously vital to a woman’s mental, physical and emotional well-being. Regardless, the federal Violence Against Women Act does not guarantee these examinations free of charge. Those costs add up quickly, leaving some patients unable to pay, or are distributed too late for most insurance companies to cover them. 


The state does have a Crime Victim’s Reparations Fund, but the restrictions for many victims’ qualifications are borderline ridiculous, including the requirement that a police report be filed. Since, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly two-thirds of sexual assault victims never go to the authorities, and the aforementioned Violence Against Women Act dictates that free forensic exams do not require a police report, it makes little sense that there are any limitations on receiving reimbursement from the state government for rape kit costs. 


If a victim wishes to not report her assault, state law requires hospitals to treat those patients as regular emergency room visitors, thereby waiving some of her payment coverage. Those women often do not, nor should they have to, ask about the cost of her care, especially when, as one victim reported to The Times-Picayune, the “triage nurse just [says], ‘You just need to be seen.'” Medical bills are the furthest thing from a woman’s mind in this situation, and it shouldn’t ever have to become a part of her worries regarding her future. 


These loopholes, which continually seem to undermine the victims, do very little to increase confidence in both government officials’ and law enforcement’s ability to aid survivors of sexual assault after the fact. With so few attacks being reported already, it is a frightening step backwards in the fight against rape culture, victim blaming, and violence against women. State and federal agencies need to make these billing and policy problems a priority as the estimated number of sexual assaults in the United States each year continues to hover near the quarter million mark. For citizens of this country, women and men, that number is inexcusable. Something must be done, and it does not include billing victims for a crime committed against them. 


This is a video from nola.com of The Times-Picayune coverage of this story. 



images c/o: nola.com, slate.com, rimaregas.com

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.