Financial assistance proposed for assault patients

Individuals who have experienced domestic or sexual violence could avoid a lengthy and expensive reimbursement process under a bill discussed Feb. 5 by the Judiciary Committee.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist10' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Wendy DeBoer'>Sen. Wendy DeBoer</a>
Sen. Wendy DeBoer

Under LB497, sponsored by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, a health care provider could apply to the Nebraska Crime Victim’s Reparations Program for reimbursement of costs associated with treating or examining a person’s injuries directly related to sexual assault or domestic abuse.

The reimbursement would cover the portion of costs that are not covered by insurance or other sources and typically would be paid by the patient. Currently, a person receiving such services would be billed and be required to pay for the services before then applying for reimbursement.

DeBoer said she introduced the bill to ensure that potential medical costs do not pose a barrier to seeking needed medical care.

“Victims of domestic and sexual assault are already eligible for reimbursement for medical costs related to their victimization through the CVR program,” DeBoer said. “LB497 provides a more efficient mechanism to reimburse medical costs directly associated with domestic or sexual violence by allowing health care providers to seek reimbursement directly from the program.”

Jennifer Tran, a sexual assault nurse examiner at Methodist Women’s Hospital in Omaha, spoke in support of the bill. Even with medical insurance, most patients have out of pocket expenses of $1,000 to $2,000, she said.

“We have to explain that while the [sexual assault kit] would cost them nothing, the medical examination would,” Tran said. “This creates an environment where patients may be choosing what parts of their medical care they want to proceed with.”

Also supporting the bill was Anne Boatright, speaking on behalf of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office. Many survivors do not know how to get these medical costs covered, she said, or who to call for help.

“They often will receive a $1,500 to $2,500 bill after their examinations,” Boatright said. “Victims have enough on their plates while they’re dealing with the fight of their life. We can and should do better and LB497 creates an opportunity for this.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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