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House panel advances bill to fully fund sexual assault exams

Rep. Wintrow after the hearing with supporters of HB 429.

Credit: Kelsey Dillon, IDLCC
Rep. Wintrow after the hearing with supporters of HB 429.

— An Idaho House panel passed a bill to provide full state payment for sexual assault victims’ forensic medical exams Thursday.

The bill, HB 429, would remove the clause in Idaho’s victim compensation laws that makes test providers first seek payment from private insurance before being paid by a state pool.

The state pool, called the Crime Victim Compensation Fund, would be allocated an additional $300,000 from tax funds. The fund currently consists of a federal grant and fines and fees from criminal justice proceedings.


Rep. Melissa Wintrow

“If a victim of sexual assault goes to a justice center… or an emergency room or medical center to get a forensic medical exam after getting raped or sexually assaulted, we are directing the hospital or facility to bill private insurance first and then (the Crime) Victim Compensation (Fund) pays the rest,” said Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, the bill’s sponsor.

“This is the only crime in the state of Idaho that we’re doing this right now,” she said before the House Judiciary, Rules & Administration Committee. “It’s burdensome and it prevents a lot of people from reporting.”

In a 2015 report, the Bureau for Justice Studies found roughly 67 percent of all rape and sexual assault cases were reported to the police.

Annie Pelletier, the director of law and policy at the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, said the bill would remove a large barrier to victims reporting — privacy. She said many young adults, who are at a greater risk of sexual violence than most demographics, are often on their parents’ health insurance.

“They know that their parents will receive an explanation of benefits that documents that they were seen for a sexual assault,” she said. “That is a huge challenge and a huge barrier for many young victims.”

Pelletier said removing barriers to reporting is critical to have more accurate reporting and evidence collection.

“There’s only 120 hours approximately when you can collect evidence, forensic evidence, following sexual assaults,” she said. “We really, really need to reduce barriers to get victims in the door to make sure that they can at least have that evidence collection completed.”

She continued, “What I’ve seen happen, is that when victims don’t get the exams, they also don’t come forward to law enforcement later.”

HB 429 moves to the House floor.

– Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.


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