Woman bitten by stray kitten slammed with outrageous $48K hospital bill
The American healthcare system is viewed by some as one of the worst in the developed world, with tens of thousands of people suffering with and dying from preventable illnesses every year because they can't afford the treatment.
Just recently, a Florida woman was charged almost $50,000 for medical attention - all because she was bitten by a stray kitten.
Jeannette Parker, a 44-year-old wildlife biologist, was travelling near the Everglades National Park in September last year when she noticed a sickly looking kitten on the side of the road. Being the kind-natured person that she is, Parker decided to offer the cat some tuna she had in her car. Unfortunately, the poor creature was startled, and bit the biologist on the hand.
"It broke my skin with his teeth," she said.
Fearing the stray might have had rabies, Parker went to to the health department near her home in the Florida Keys - but it was shut. Instead, she had to resort to showing up at the emergency room at Mariners Hospital, at which point she was given two different injections along with some antibiotics.
In countries such as the UK, where healthcare is nationalised, this would have been free.
Parker, however, was billed $48,512 for the treatment - $46,422 of which was for a substance called "rabies immune globulin": an antibody that protects the body from rabies until a vaccination can treat the virus. Parker was given 12 milliliters of the substance, which averages at $361.26 per milliliter.
"I saw that immune globulin was expensive, but it wasn’t that expensive," the biologist said. "I sat on it for a while because I was upset. Finally, I went by the hospital to confirm, and they said, ‘Yes, that is right.'"
The hospital claims that the amount Parker was charged "reflected list prices the hospital had in place on Sept. 22, 2018", meaning that, at the time, they must have been asking for $7,737 per 2-milliliter dose. Only a month later, however, this had dropped to $1,650 per two milliliters.
"Statements for patients who received treatment prior to the change would reflect the previous charge," said Robau Alvarez, a spokesperson for Baptist Health. It was unclear why the price had fluctuated so dramatically, however, and the hospital was not willing to provide an explanation.
Fortunately, Parker was covered by American Postal Workers Union for insurance because her husband is a federal government employee - but she still had to pay $4,191 of the total cost.
Parker feels she has been treated unfairly - not only because the hospital has refused to lower the charges to reflect the current cost of the drugs she was given, but also because she still had to cover 10 per cent of the bill, despite a cat bite being an "accidental injury" that should have been covered in full.
"My funeral would have been cheaper," the biologist joked. Parker plans to re-submit the bill to her insurance company to see if she can have the remaining debt paid for.