If you occasionally handle wild animals, as I do, it's a game of Russian Roulette. If you do very much of this, you will eventually get bit even if you are careful. And if you get bit, you have to decide what to do. Do you wash it out and treat it like a knife wound, or do you go "Oh my God, it could be RABIES" and rush to the the nearest hospital or doctor for a full rabies work up?
I have faced that predicament and written about it, but now Vox lays out the financial consequences of rushing to a doctor.
[T]he drug that prevents rabies from spreading to the brain can cost more than $10,000 in the United States. In some cases I reviewed, hospitals charged more than six times what the identical drug would cost in the UK.
Insurance plans will often negotiate down those charges, but even those lower prices are still multiples higher than what patients pay in our peer countries, such as Canada or England.
“Rabies treatment is more expensive in the United States, as are many medical treatments, because we don’t have price controls,” says Charles Rupprecht, a biomedical consultant who previously ran the rabies control program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Emergency rooms, meanwhile, can exacerbate the pricing problem.
ERs typically are the only locations where patients can find the lifesaving treatment. And they charge significant “facility fees” to anyone who walks through their doors to seek treatment — including patients seeking a rabies vaccine.
Because rabies treatments includes a series of four shots delivered over two weeks — all at separate appointments — those costs can add up quickly.
“I have to go to the ER to get the drug, and each time I walk in the door, that is a $250 copayment just to start,” says Lisa Peterson, who went through rabies treatment in Utah in 2016 after being bitten by a raccoon. The public health department told her the only place she could get the injection was at the local emergency department.
She is still paying off her bills for the treatment — about $4,500 in total — with $100 a month. She still has about $600 to go, from emergency room visits that happened in the fall of 2016.