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21st Legislature(1999-2000)

Committee Minutes


HOUSE FINANCE
Apr 10, 2000
HOUSE BILL NO. 270

An Act relating to sexual assault and sexual abuse and
to payment for certain medical costs and examinations
in cases of alleged sexual assault or sexual abuse.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CROFT stated that HB 270 would guarantee
that adult victims of sexual assault are not charged for the
costs of evidentiary forensic exams.

He noted that a victim of sexual assault has by definition
been victimized once. In order to facilitate investigation
of the crime and prosecution of the criminal, a victim is
often asked to submit to a forensic exam to gather evidence.
The forensic exams often involve taking physical samples and
photographs. While it is the ordinary police practice to pay
for these evidence-gathering exams, some victims now report
that they have been asked to pay for the cost of the
forensic exam through their medical insurance. To victims of
sexual assault, this is a third victimization.

Representative Croft explained that when a house is
burglarized and law enforcement takes photos or fingerprints
of evidence, the victim is never sent the bill, directly or
indirectly, or asked to have their homeowners' insurance
billed. There is faith that most law enforcement agencies
take responsibility for victims' needs and appropriately pay
for evidentiary exams as needed.

Representative Croft concluded that with the passage of HB
270, victims would be assured that they could not be
required to pay for evidentiary forensic exams.

Representative Foster questioned how widespread the problem
is. Representative Croft replied that it is not widespread
but that it does exist. He noted that the majority of
police agencies do the right thing in this regard. However,
some agencies do try to transfer this concern to the
individual's insurance. That type action can result from
tight budget times.

Representative G. Davis inquired the average cost for the
service. Representative Croft advised that it costs
approximately $300-$500 dollars.

Co-Chair Therriault questioned if there was any legitimate
payment which could be cut off through passage of this
legislation. Representative Croft commented that some
places have indicated that they do not charge families out
of pocket expense. If a child was eligible for Medicaid or
health insurance, they may attempt to tap that source. He
reiterated that the family should not be liable.

Representative Austerman asked the ratio of children versus
adult cases. Representative Croft did not know the answer.

LAUREE HUGONIN, DIRECTOR, ALASKA NETWORD ON DOMESTIC
VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT (ANDVSA), JUNEAU, commented that
these charges occur as a result of hospital accounting
procedures. The range of costs can be from between $300-
$1000 dollars. The direct charges usually result from the
accounting procedures at the hospitals and not the law
enforcement agencies. She noted that there has been some
difficulty in Mat-Su, Anchorage, Kenai and Sitka and
possibly in Bethel. She was not aware of other parts of the
State where there was a problem. Ms. Hugonin advised that
this problem is not on going and pervasive, but that it does
occur more than sporadically.

Ms. Hugonin testified on the actual exam process that a
person must go through after the assault. She urged the
Committee to seriously consider passing the legislation so
that the victim does not have to go through the pain of the
ordeal again.

Vice Chair Bunde asked the advantage to the hospital in
requesting the exam money. He questioned if the police
agencies were slow in processing these claims. Ms. Hugonin
acknowledged that the hospitals are concerned with having
timely payments. Originally, there was concern that law
enforcement would not bring forward all the cases because
they would not be able to pay for the exams.

Representative Austerman asked if the object of the
legislation is that no one individual would be responsible
to pay for this type service. Ms. Hugonin replied that it
is the intention that no "victim" pay for the examine. She
noted that it clarifies that the State Troopers and/or the
local law enforcement would pay for the exam.

TRISHA GENTLE, DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND
SEXAUL ASSAULT (CDVSA), JUNEAU, voiced support for the
legislation. She reiterated that the actual "receiving of
the bill" again reminds the victim of the trauma that they
experienced. She emphasized that the bill would help
protect the rape victim from further trauma.

DEL SMITH, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY,
noted that the Department supports the legislation. He
clarified that the cost of collection of forensic evidence
and the prosecution of the crime is the responsibility of
the agency that is investigating and collecting that
evidence. The legislation guarantees that the victim does
not pay. The Anchorage Police Department was concerned that
there were certain parties that could pay for the service.
Mr. Smith agreed that placing the stipulation in statute
would guarantee that the victim does not receive the bill.

Mr. Smith speculated that hospitals are not set up to
administer a third party billing. He noted that his
Department currently pays out approximately $50 thousand
dollars per year for this type service.

Representative Phillips read for the record, a statement
from a woman in Juneau who had experienced the charges as
indicated. The letter states that the medical costs should
not become a deterrent for a woman to seek out the care that
they need after a rape experience.

Representative Foster MOVED to report CS HB 270 (HES) out of
Committee with individual recommendations and with the
accompanying fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was
so ordered.

CS HB 270(HES) was reported out of Committee with a "do
pass" recommendation and with a fiscal note by the
Department of Public Safety dated 3/15/00.

(TAPE CHANGE, HFC 00 - 111, Side 2).