A state fund that helps rape victims pay for their emergency room examinations has eliminated its $1,000 reimbursement cap.
Department of Crime Control and Public Safety secretary Bryan Beatty said late Wednesday the cap would be eliminated immediately. He said his department would pay any reasonable bill for uninsured patients who undergo a rape kit exam after an attack.
Rape kits collect DNA evidence for criminal investigators and can cost up to $1,600.
The move comes in reaction to a story in the News & Observer of Raleigh. The newspaper reported Wednesday that most rape victims pay some costs of the exam.
For some, it's a $50 insurance copay. But uninsured patients can be charged hundreds of dollars.
Some state lawmakers said they were shocked rape victims were charged. They vowed to address the issue.
State records show that many sexual assault victims must pay for the tests they undergo after an alleged attack.
According to records and victim advocates, some victims pay only the $50 insurance copay for an emergency room visit. But others are left with hundreds of dollars in bills.
Hospitals send emergency room bills for uninsured patients to the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. The agency enables reimbursements up to $1,000, though the average cost of a rape kit exam is $1,600.
The executive director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault said rape victims are treated differently than victims of other crimes.
She said rape kits provide DNA evidence for investigators, yet robbery victims aren't charged when their homes are checked for fingerprints.