Palin and the rape kits

The Anchorage Daily News (raise your hand if you had the Anchorage Daily News in your RSS reader before Sarah Palin joined the ticket!) reports today on the Democratic version of their “truth squad,” which in this case is called the “Alaska Mythbusters.”

Most of the stuff in a teleconference has been well worked over except, the paper says, this one: that rape victims in the town in which Palin was mayor, had to pay for their forensic tests:

Eight years ago, complaints about charging rape victims for medical exams in Wasilla prompted the Alaska Legislature to pass a bill — signed into law by Knowles — that banned the practice statewide.

“There was one town in Alaska that was charging victims for this, and that was Wasilla,” Knowles said

It’s not just Alaska. Last winter, the Raleigh News & Observer in North Carolina uncovered a similar policy on a statewide basis.

The vast majority of the 3,000 or so emergency room patients examined for sexual assaults each year shoulder some of the cost of a rape kit test, according to state records and victim advocates. For some, it’s as little as a $50 insurance co-payment. For those without insurance, it’s hundreds of dollars left when a state program designed to help reaches its limit.

Apparently, the practice is more common than most people think.

said Ilse Knecht, deputy director of public policy at the National Center for Victims of Crime in an interview with U.S. News & World Report. “We’ve heard so many stories of victims paying for their exams, or not being able to and then creditors coming after them.”

“The bottom line is these services cost money,” Rebecca Andrews, a hospital’s vice president of finance told the paper. “We do sometimes forgive. It’s case by case. But where do you stop? We treat gunshot wounds, stabbings, abused children. No one asked for that to happen.”

According to Knecht, under the Violence Against Women Act, local governments have to pay the full costs of the rape kits. But some victims are still being charged anyway.

According to Knecht, reports from the field indicated recently that caseworkers in Georgia, Arkansas, and — wait for it — Illinois are running into the same policy as the one in Wasilla. According to a 2004 summary by the group, in Illinois, Obama’s state, there is “no charge to a victim who is ineligible for services under Illinois Public Aid Code and who has no insurance.”

Obama filed legislation to change state law so that the victims don’t pay. It was signed by the governor of Illinois in 2001.

Minnesota takes a direct route on the issue: Victims don’t pay and don’t have to mess with insurance companies. Period. In Minnesota, the county in which the alleged rape occurred is responsible for paying for the rape kits. The victim is not billed.