A brief encounter with a bat left a Windham woman with a $9,200 bill for rabies treatments, and she said it’s only the beginning.
Karen White has a good sense of humor.
“I thought it was funny,” she said. “I thought it was like a Halloween encounter coming early.”
White said it was the middle of the night, in the middle of July when she heard strange sounds and woke up to a bat right in front of her face.
“He was eye level when I opened my eyes,” White said. “I was laying on my back and I opened them and he was right there and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’”
It didn’t scare her, so she said she shooed it out of the bedroom and went back to sleep. But the bat was still there the next day.
“I called my doctor, she says, ‘Yes, get in here right now,’” White recalled.
Since no one could say for sure whether White had any contact with the bat, doctors recommended rabies treatments. They told her the deadly disease can be spread through saliva.
White said she ended up at an urgent care clinic, getting five injections of immune globulin, or antibodies, and the rabies vaccine.
“First day was two shots in the thigh, three in the biscuits and one in the arm,” White said.
Last week, she got the bill for $9,227.22.
“I was horrified,” she said.
And there are still three more bills to come. One for each additional rabies shot, which White expects will be at least $7,500 more.
“This is a treatment you would have to have to save your life and why does that have to be so expensive?” she wondered.
Ken McCall, director of residency programs and associate professor at University of New England’s College of Pharmacy, said there are only two manufacturers for the human rabies vaccine, which means less competition and higher prices.
“The first treatment for possible rabies exposure includes both the immune globulin and the vaccine, making it the most expensive. The follow-up vaccine shots are less expensive, but still costly,” McCall said. He added the vaccines are usually only available in emergency rooms and quick care clinics, which adds significantly to the cost.
Amelia Arnold, president-elect of the Maine Pharmacy Association, said the treatments aren’t stocked in physician’s offices because they don’t have a very long shelf life.
She said the cost should never stop someone from getting treatment. She encourages anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to rabies to get vaccinated, and discuss payment with their insurance and medical providers.
“It was so shocking to me,” White said.
White said she had no idea and hopes to save others from the same sticker shock.
“If I had known it was gonna cost this much, I might have opted not to have it, which probably wouldn’t have been a good decision,” she said. “But it would’ve been cheaper to bury me.”
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