N. Idaho clinic eyes stocking rabies vaccine

ClinicCOEUR D’ALENE, Idaho: A nonprofit community health center in northern Idaho is considering offering the rabies vaccine to make it more affordable.

The Dirne Community Clinic in Coeur d’Alene charges patients on a sliding scale based on their ability to pay. Patients with no insurance or low incomes usually pay $25 or $50 a visit.

“We actually have the ability to purchase these vaccines at a significantly discounted rate,” Dirne CEO Mike Baker told The Spokesman-Review.

Nicholle Joyce said that she followed her doctor’s advice and went to an emergency room to get the lifesaving vaccine after being exposed to a rabid bat. Her bill was $5,000 for the five shots that must be started within a 10-day window after exposure.

She said her insurance deductible is $3,000 and her insurer is only paying about $830 of the bill. She said her friend had no insurance, but Medicaid covered the shots for her friend’s 15-month-old son.

“It’s absolutely impossible for everyone to get a due-on-receipt of $5,000 and just go with it,” said Joyce, a veterinary technician from Athol.

Because the vaccine isn’t often needed, it’s not usually stocked at the offices of most doctors, boosting the cost.
“It’s very unfortunate, but it’s a rare occurrence,” said Tom Shanahan, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman.

Nationally, rabies shots cost between $2,000 and $7,000.
Baker said the Dirne Clinic would be able to get the vaccine in two days at a cost of about $1,000. He said patients who qualify for assistance programs from drug manufacturers could get the vaccine for free.

“Last year we got close to $2 million in donated medications from the pharmaceutical companies for our patients,” Baker said.

Three bats in northern Idaho have tested positive for rabies this year.
One of them was in May in the house where Joyce stayed with her friend, Lanmana Parys, of Spirit Lake. Joyce, Parys and Parys’ young son found a dying bat on the staircase inside the house the next morning.

Authorities say that when a rabid bat has been inside where people are sleeping, the people are assumed to have been exposed. Bites and scratches might not leave a mark or could go undetected.

Joyce waited until the ninth day of the 10-day window before seeking help.
“Unfortunately we were clueless – I mean, who deals with this? Nobody,” she said. -AP

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