Assault victims would be protected from debt collectors under Nebraska measure

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — A new proposal aims to protect victims of assault and abuse from further pain during their darkest hours.

The Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Wednesday afternoon for Legislative Bill 315.

It would prohibit medical providers from taking action against victims over certain debts.

“What’s happening today is that our system is re-victimizing assault victims through collection notices and threats of collections, and that is why LB 315 is needed,” said Angie Lauritsen, an abuse survivor and supporter of the bill.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. John Fredrickson from Omaha.

His measure is aimed at shielding survivors of sexual assault, domestic assault and child abuse who are struggling to pay off bills related to their injuries.

That includes both the examination and treatment of their wounds.

Survivors of sexual and domestic assault are not supposed to see debt collection notices. The state has tried to make it so that they don’t even see medical bills from their treatment.

There is a special state fund, called the Crime Victims Reparations Fund, to pay survivors’ bills.

In 2021, the Legislature unanimously approved LB 497, which allows health care providers to directly bill the fund.

“[The] Legislature has committed already to the survivors that we will not keep them financially liable for seeking medical services as a result of their injuries,” Fredrickson said. “And what we’ve learned is that there’s still a gap in this actually happening, and we are still seeing survivors that are set being sent to debt collectors.”

Under LB 315, providers would not be able to refer bills for such services to a collection agency.

During the hearing, some people testified that the fund has more than $400,000 in it but that over half of the applicants are denied and forced to appeal.

One of the people who testified was Erin Feichtinger, a representative for the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

“Our concern is to make sure that not a single victim in the state of these crimes is ever put in a position that they are worried about the financial stress, that they might not go seek care the next time out of concern for, you know, ruining their credit and ruining their family’s credit,” she said.

Providers would also be prohibited from sharing information about a victim’s payment status in any way that impacts their credit rating, or that of their family or guardian.

Categories: Capitol News, Nebraska News, News