CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Going into the emergency room (ER) can be scary moments for families, but for some getting the bill at the end can be the worst part. That’s the case for one Charlotte man who said he was shocked to see what he was charged for just walking into the emergency room.
In September, a cat scratched Shyam Patil’s wrist when he was outside his home. He wasn’t sure if the cat was a stray or if it was up to date on its shots so he called his doctor. Because the cat drew blood, his doctor said he should get a rabies shot just in case. His doctor said to go to the ER because the rabies shot isn’t commonly available at clinics.
“They don’t tell you the cost, they don’t tell you anything,” said Patil.
While at the ER, Patil googled the cost for rabies vaccinations and was stunned by the articles that came up. The first one outlined a story similar to his where a woman was bitten by a cat. Her bill was more than $40,000.
He also asked the nurses and doctors at the ER and he said they were unable to provide him a number of how much it would cost. Scared of what the bill could be, he walked out of the ER.
“Sometimes you feel that it is better to die if you have rabies then to incur this much debt,” Patil said.
After Patil already went to the ER, he found out the cat was his neighbor’s pet and the cat was up to date on his rabies vaccinations.
A few months later, a letter arrived in the mail detailing what he owed for his visit to the ER.
“I got the bill for $2,500. I was like ‘I didn’t even take the shot. What is this bill for?’”
The bill shows a charge for more than $2,300 for a level 3 emergency department visit. There are other additional charges on the bill, including a tetanus shot update that was about to be due and an anti-inflammatory pill he took there for the possible rabies exposure. Altogether the bill adds up to a little more than $2,500.
If Patil did get the rabies vaccination that day, the bill shows it would have been an extra $13,048 charged.
According to the CDC the average price of rabies treatment is between $1,200 and $6,500.
Atrium Health couldn’t go into specifics because of HIPPA laws but said some bills show the charges and do not reflect the actual price that patients would have to pay. They sent us a full statement when asked about this bill and their prices.“When a patient comes to an Atrium Health emergency department, our primary goal is providing the care they need for often life-threatening illnesses. Following treatment, charges are assessed based on several factors, including the level of care needed, tests required, and the severity of the illness. While HIPAA regulations and patient privacy laws prevent us from sharing details of this case, patient out-of-pocket costs are often dependent on a number of factors, including co-pays and deductibles that are part of a patient’s personal health insurance policy. We recognize healthcare expenses are often unplanned events for our patients and we work diligently to ensure our costs are consistent with the level of care we provide. Atrium Health is committed to empowering patients to make informed decisions about their healthcare, and provide financial counseling and assistance for all eligible patients to help with their healthcare expenses.”Atrium HealthAtrium Health
Patil said even with his insurance, he still owes a little more than $2,500 for the visit. That bill is due at the end of the month.
Even though Atrium Health lists the costs of their services online, it is unclear which code reflect the rabies vaccination. The health department does not provide post-exposure rabies vaccination for persons bitten or otherwise exposed to a rabid, or potentially rabid, animal. It appears that several Walgreens locations provide the vaccine, but the cost is not clear on their website.