By Consumers for Quality Care, on March 8, 2023
A California couple was charged over $200,000 for a single visit to the emergency room for rabies shots after encountering a bat in their home, according to ABC 7 News.
Al and Eileen Aguilar were able to capture and release the bat that had entered their home. Although neither reported being bit, their doctor recommended getting rabies shots anyway.
The first shot had to be administered in an emergency room. The couple received their shots at a local nonprofit hospital, then waited for the bill.
A rabies shot, which normally costs between $1,200 and $6,800, ended up costing Al and Eileen $112,000 and $93,000, respectively.
The nonprofit hospital, which lists the price of a rabies vaccine on their website at $547.65, did not provide the Aguilars with an itemized bill or explanation of services provided.
Eileen described the shock when they received their bill: “It’s like, this has got to be wrong.”
But an expert on rabies, Charles Rupprecht, warns that such high bills may dissuade patients from seeking care, which can have fatal consequences in the case of an actual rabies infection. “That might cause them not to seek care. That may cause them to trivialize the event,” Rupprecht said. “And if that occurs because of socio-economic reasons, and it was a real rabies case, and it results in a productive infection, they’re gonna die.”
Rupprecht, in his expert opinion, believes that while the bat was not tested for rabies, it likely wasn’t infected. He suggested that the Aguilars should have kept the bat and had it tested for rabies to see whether they even needed the shots.
With plan discounts, the couple’s insurance company paid over $58,000 for the treatment, leaving the Aguilars with a bill of just over $3,500.
Unfortunately, consumers can rack up huge bills almost as soon as they walk through the doors of an emergency room. CQC urges hospitals to put aside exorbitant fees and urges lawmakers to require health care providers to be more transparent when they bill for services.