POLITICAL observations & opinions

* Samuels (NYT): Palin billed sexual-assalt victims for the cost of rape kits and foensic exams

Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 26, 2008

Dorothy Samuels writes in today’s NYT …

  • When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the small town began billing sexual-assault victims for the cost of rape kits and forensic exams.
  • Ms. Palin owes voters an explanation.
    • What was the thinking behind cutting the measly few thousand dollars needed to cover the yearly cost of swabs, specimen containers and medical tests?
    • Whose dumb idea was it to make assault victims and their insurance companies pay instead?
    • in the absence of answers, speculation is bubbling that Wasilla’s policy of billing rape victims may have something to do with Ms. Palin’s extreme opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape. Sexual-assault victims are typically offered an emergency contraception pill, which some people in the anti-choice camp wrongly equate with abortion.
  • Unfortunately, her campaign is shielding the candidate from the press, so Americans may still be waiting for answers on Election Day.

  • when Senator Joseph Biden drafted the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, he included provisions to make states ineligible for federal grant money if they charged rape victims for exams and the kits containing the medical supplies needed to conduct them.
  • Senator John McCain voted against the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, and his name has not been among the long list of co-sponsors each time the act has been renewed.

 

Advertisements

One Response to “* Samuels (NYT): Palin billed sexual-assalt victims for the cost of rape kits and foensic exams”

  1. Rachel Cohen said

    Palin required rape victims to pay for their own rape kits.

    No, she didn’t try to charge rape victims personally for rape kits.

    This is one of those complicated ones with a tiny hint of truth behind it.

    * First, the Chief of Police in Wasilla (not Palin) did apparently have a policy of asking a victim’s health insurance to pay for the rape kit as part of the ER visit. This, it turns out, is policy in a number of states, including Missouri and North Carolina.
    * Second, the way this became an issue was after the then-governor of Alaska signed a bill forbidding it; this law was signed before Palin was Governor and no one tried to reverse it while she was Governor.
    * Third, what the CoP in Wasilla wanted to do was charge the perpetrator as part of restitution.

    HOWEVER:
    Bob Owens (Confederate Yankee) has done more investigation on this and learned some new things:

    * There is no record anywhere that anyone was ever actually charged for a rape kit.
    * However, the hospital might have billed a patient, just as they would bill the patient for an MRI if the attack included a head injury.
    * If anyone were charged, the Alaska Victims Compensation Board would have reimbursed them. CY quotes an email that says:
    Rape kits and other medical expenses of this type would be paid by the VCCB, 100% guaranteed. The City of Wasilla could have technically ‘charged’ the victim but even if they did, the VCCB would have paid the bill in full. I still know the a few of the Board members and the supervisor and I can tell you that they are very liberal with the way that they pay the victims bills.

    Update: Tu quoque is never a good argument, but it turns out (via the comments at CY) that there are two interesting points:

    First, it turns out that Illinois currently at least attempts to bill the victim’s insurance for the rape kits too:

    (410 ILCS 70/7)
    Sec. 7. Charges and reimbursement.
    (a) When any ambulance provider furnishes transportation, hospital provides hospital emergency services and forensic services, hospital or health care professional or laboratory provides follow‑up healthcare, or pharmacy dispenses prescribed medications to any sexual assault survivor, as defined by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, who is neither eligible to receive such services under the Illinois Public Aid Code NOR COVERED AS TO SUCH SERVICES BY A POLICY OF INSURANCE the ambulance provider, hospital, health care professional, or laboratory shall furnish such services to that person without charge and shall be entitled to be reimbursed for its billed charges in providing such services by the Illinois Sexual Assault Emergency Treatment Program under the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. [Emphasis mine.]

    It appears that Barack Obama was a co-sponsor of the bill that estabpished this.

    Second, it turns out that North Carolina hospitals billed patients directly until last month (or perhaps later, as it isn’t clear when this law takes effect):

    The N.C. General Assembly approved more than $1 million this summer to revamp a program designed to help cover the cost of rape kit exams for uninsured victims. The exams are used to collect bodily evidence of an attacker and are standard in the prosecution of sex crimes.

    Now, hospitals will settle directly with the state, sparing victims of sexual assault the aggravation and trauma of receiving a bill.

    It turns out that Jim Hunt and now Mike Easley have been the governors of North Carolina since 1993.

    It is left as an exercise for the interested reader to determine the political affiliation of these people.

    Update (2300 MDT): Two more things have shown up.

    First, Bob Owen has received documentation including copies of contemporaneous documents showing that the City of Wasilla did indeed pay for the rape kits of two instances before the law was in effect. As he correctly points out, these were after the law was passed, so it’s not in itself conclusive, but at least suggestive.

    Second, Jim Geraghty at NRO has investigated further, and found:

    1.Wasilla was not mentioned in any of the hearings. [This is contrary to what Tony Knowles, who Palin beat for the Governorship, has said recently.—CRM]

    2. The deputy commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Public Safety told the State Affairs Committee that he has never found a police agency that has billed a victim. ….

    To clarify: In preparation to attend a hearing and support the bill, one of the state’s top law-enforcement officials found no case of a rape victim ever being charged. And roughly a month after 30 Democratic lawyers, investigators, and opposition researchers, not to mention reporters from every major news agency in the country, landed in Alaska, we still have no instances to consider.

    3. Three times, witnesses told the committees that hospitals were responsible for passing the bill on to victims, not police agencies. If the bill went straight from the hospital to the victim, without ever being sent to the police department, this would explain why no confirming paperwork could be found in the Wasilla Finance Department. This information also fortifies Palin’s claim that she was never aware of the policy, as it is more plausible that a mayor would not be aware of a private hospitals’ billing policy than of the police department’s billing policy.

    Conclusion:

    1. It never happened: Wasilla never charged anyone for a rape kit.
    2. If Wasilla had billed someone, it would have been reimbursed through a different state agency.
    3. The only evidence offered for this is from Palin’s political enemies, offered only after she was nominated for the Vice presidency; it is unsupported, and in fact contradicted, by contemporaneous accounts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: