APPLETON, Wis. -- Sexual assault victims in Wisconsin are sometimes charged as much as $1,200 for the cost of collecting evidence, a hospital bill that state officials say should be paid by insurance or the government.
A spokeswoman with the state Department of Justice said patients aren't supposed to be charged, and that hospitals that do bill them are often unaware of government funds that help cover those costs. Jill Karofsky, the executive director of the department's office of crime-victim services, said the state was working to educate hospitals about the available funds.
When someone is sexually assaulted, the process of collecting forensic evidence can include taking pictures of bruises, swabs of sexual fluids or hair. Other expenses, such as pregnancy tests, antibiotics and medical supplies, can bring the cost to about $1,200.
Some hospitals charge the victims' insurance. Others are compensated through state and federal dollars: the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Fund, which covers people who don't want to report the crime to police, and the Crime Victim Compensation Fund, which helps people who do report.
But an analysis by The Post-Crescent of Appleton found that hospitals in the Fox Cities rarely sought compensation from either fund in recent years.
Hospitals in the ThedaCare system used to absorb the cost for years as part of their charity care, said Jean Coopman-Jansen a program coordinator at Appleton Medical Center. After a change to comply with the health system's billing rules, some victims last year were forced to pay the costs themselves, she said.
ThedaCare officials made a change a few weeks ago to ensure that bills are covered by a patient's insurance or the government, Coopman-Jansen said.