For Raleigh family, medical bill scarier than rabid bat

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A Raleigh family is in shock at treatment costs after a rabid bat was found in their home.

A Raleigh family is in sticker shock after finding a bat in their home and possibly being exposed to rabies.

Two weeks ago, while preparing dinner for her family, Lorna Moser said her son noticed something black on the wall.

"He noticed like a black mass," Moser said.

That mass ended up being a bat. They called animal control and the next day were told the bat tested positive for rabies. Then Moser said later that day they received a call from a nurse at the Wake County Health Department.

The rabid bat was captured.

"You have three days from the point of which you were exposed, this is what I was told, to make the decision to basically start with treatment, and if you don't start in those three days you then lose the opportunity for treatment altogether," recalled Moser. "So you have a very high-stress moment of making this decision and the consequence is death if you make the wrong one."

So they of course chose to go with treatment.

EARLIER STORY: Bat caught in Raleigh home tests positive for rabies

Seven shots for Moser, her husband and each of their small children. They had no idea yet how much this could cost them out of pocket.

The first shots in the series of shots required are only available at the emergency room, because of costs. Then the rest of the treatments are available at the Wake County Health Department. But in smaller counties, the Wake County health director said, people may only have the option of going to an emergency room.

"The ER visit for just that one night just the visit cost us $1,600 for showing up," said Moser, who also said they're starting to see costs posted to their insurance as high as $22,000, just for her husband.

Right now they have no idea how much will be covered by insurance, but from what they've heard from people who have gone through this, they're bracing themselves for what that price tag might be.

"This could be a $40,000 price tag for an event that we think didn't happen," said Moser. "The cat's vaccine was $30 for rabies."

On Thursday, Moser checked her insurance and said nearly $40,000 was billed by Duke Raleigh to her insurance just for her and the two children. She said she will have to pay $8,000 of that out of pocket.

That's not including her husband.

The family cat.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and the Wake County health director say there are assistance programs in place should someone without insurance need these shots.

From DHHS:

The state does offer assistance through the State Laboratory of Public Health to those who have been exposed to rabies through the Free Rabies Vaccine program. The criteria for eligibility are:

  • 1. the patient is an NC resident

  • 2. the products are recommended by a licensed physician in NC

  • 3. the patient is within 100% of the federal poverty level that fiscal year, has no insurance that will pay for PEP and is not eligible for state assistance (Medicaid)

  • For more information, click here.

    The county health director said there are also payment-plan options.

    Moser says that's not really the point, "regardless of the reasons they could be able to do something to negotiate to bring costs down."

    "There should be a system in place where money never even weighed into our decision," said Moser. "Vaccines are intended to be accessible and affordable because the idea of it, is we want to manage things that hurt or kill people."

    Right now, the family is in limbo and preparing for the worst as they wait to see what insurance will and won't cover.

    "If we come back with a big price tag it will be an upward chain in terms of talking to both the health department and with our insurance company," Moser said.

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