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Exam Billing Reform Is Overdue for Victims/Survivors and Care Providers

Over the weekend, the Star Tribune Editorial Board published a piece in support of MNCASA-backed legislation to create a state fund and shift payments of sexual assault exams from the counties to the state (HF 1279).

Our organization has been advocating for this change on behalf of sexual assault victims/survivors since 2016. In that time, Jude Foster, Advocacy, Medical Forensic, and Prevention Programs Director at MNCASA, has been a persistent champion for state exam billing reform.

“Our staff has provided specialized training to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) across the state, improved medical forensic compliance, and led statewide sexual assault kit storage and tracking initiatives. Sexual assault exam billing remains our biggest challenge,” said Jude.

Billing inconsistencies not only threaten the sustainability of medical forensic programs, but they can also prevent victims/survivors from accessing much-needed medical care, particularly in rural areas. “I have been a sexual assault advocate for 30 years,” said Jude, “and without access to competent and compassionate medical exams, rural victims/survivors may need to travel to the metro area or choose not to have an exam at all.”

Minnesota has 87 counties and 87 different methods for sexual assault exam billing. Reimbursement rates fluctuate dramatically across the state, causing great inequity for SANE programs. In some parts of the state, exams are being reimbursed at 10% of what has been billed. Once again, rural hospitals are hit hardest by these billing disparities.

“HF 1279 is the culmination of MNCASA’s collective effort to improve this system for sexual assault nurse examiners, hospitals, law enforcement, county payors, and most critically victims/survivors,” said Em Westerlund, Statewide Medical Forensic Policy Program Coordinator at MNCASA.

“The creation of a state fund will help ensure equity in billing and payment across Minnesota and reduce the likelihood that a victim/survivor may inadvertently be billed for their medical forensic exam.

You can track the progress of HF129 here.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Critical policy changes like statewide exam billing reform aren’t possible without your support. Join us on April 27 for our annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month fundraiser—AWARE 2023: A Conversation with Dr. Roxane Gay. Tickets are $10-$40 based on what you can afford and proceeds go toward MNCASA’s policy and system change work.

Get tickets