Experts say sexual violence survivors can often face exorbitant medical bills when seeking emergency care, a factor that may deter many people from seeking treatment.
Sexual violence survivors are charged nearly $4,000 in medical bills, on average, after seeking emergency care after an assault, according to the recent study Published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Only one in five victims of sexual violence seek medical care in the United States. The study authors concluded that medical bills may prevent victims from seeking treatment.
People without health insurance pay an average of $3,673 out of their pocket while those with insurance still pay about 14% of total billed costs, with an average of $497.
Pregnant women who experience sexual assault and seek emergency medical care face an average highest fee of $4,553 for their visit.
These laws may particularly burden low-income women and girls, who are disproportionately victims of sexual assault.
“We discourage people from seeking medical care when we charge them a huge amount of money for that care,” study author Dr. Stephanie Wallhandler, professor of public health at the City University of New York’s Hunter College and lecturer in medicine at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News.
The study author, Dr. Fatherhood in Montana.
Dickman tells ABC News, “The patients I’ve seen who have described to me are feeling completely unsupported by the health care system. They know they can’t get affordable care after they’ve been assaulted. For many survivors, this feels like adding an extra layer of trauma. “.
Woolhandler says people should seek financial help when seeking treatment in the emergency department.
“Depending on your income, you may qualify for financial aid, and often you have to ask for it,” she said. Another advice from Woolhandler is “for veterans to check and see if they qualify for care at Veterans Administration hospitals because this care comes with minimal co-payments and deductibles.”
In the post-Roe era, women are less protected by the health care system when they are sexually assaulted. As of September 2022, 11 states have banned abortions, including abortions of pregnancies resulting from rape.
“Under laws that state that rape survivors must prove they have access to medical care to qualify for an exemption to have an abortion. This means that you require the survivor to go to the emergency room, which can result in thousands of medical debts to access an abortion,” he said. Dickman.
“We need to reform the Violence Against Women Act to comprehensively cover medical care, not just forensic examinations,” Dickman said.
The Violence against women law It is a federal law that pays for evidence collection but leaves people responsible for additional bills associated with emergency care after an assault. Expanding the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act to include payment for other services, not just evidence collection, can help survivors avoid financial hardship and further trauma.
“Tragically, our political system continues to fail survivors of rape and sexual assault,” Dickman said.
Shelby A. Sweden, MD, is an emergency medicine resident at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, part of the ABC News Medical Unit.