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Cat bite bill of $48,000 due mostly to rabies vaccine highlights struggle over high drug prices

Health insurance covered a majority of the $48,512 bill; $46,422 of that was for one rabies immune globulin injection.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

A story making the rounds on social media last week was about a cat lover who stopped to feed a stray kitten she saw wandering along the road outside of the Everglades National Park in Florida.

Offering up some bits of tuna fish, state fish and wildlife biologist Jeannette Parker, 44, got bitten, went to the ER and ended up with a $48,000 bill for medical treatment, according to Kaiser Health News.

WHY THIS MATTERS

This is an another expected case in a long line of reports of surprise hospital bills resulting from a trip to an out-of-network ER physician.

But this isn't what happened. The hospital, Mariners Hospital of South Baptist Health South Florida, was in-network for coverage.

This is instead about high drug prices and how the government's push for price transparency could have resulted in an estimated $9,900 bill had Parker been bitten a couple of months later, after the hospital had lowered its price in time for the January 1 start of chargemaster postings.

The majority of Parker's $48,512 bill was due to a $46,422 rabies immune globulin injection, according to the report. This reflects the list price the hospital had in place on September 22, 2018, when Parker was treated.

THE TREND

Mariners could not be immediately reached for comment about whether the reduction for the injection was tied to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rule for hospitals to post their chargemaster prices on their websites starting January 1.

America's Health Insurance Plans did weigh in, saying the patient's health insurance provider paid $34,618 toward her total bill. Parker was insured through her husband with the American Postal Workers Union.

The APWU insurance has requested an audit of the bill, and Parker said she learned that the cat bite should have been considered an accidental injury eligible for 100 percent coverage after the deductible.

"The patient's insurance provider continued to work with her, looking for additional ways to save her money," AHIP said.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com

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