Scorpion sting leaves Ahwatukee woman with a big bill
by Ken Alltucker - Sept. 4, 2012 11:50 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com
Marcie Edmonds was tearing open a box of air-conditioner filters in her garage last June when she felt a sharp sting in her abdomen.
The 52-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills woman had never felt a scorpion sting before that day. She had no intention of seeking medical help, but within an hour of the sting, Edmonds' mild tingling sensation worsened with throat tightness, blurry vision, darting eyes and tense muscles. She could not walk and had trouble breathing.
Scorpion anti-venom has stinging cost
With the help of a friend, she called Poison Control and was advised to go to the nearest hospital that had scorpion antivenom, Chandler Regional Medical Center. At the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her about the antivenom, called Anascorp, that could quickly relieve her symptoms. Edmonds said the physician never talked with her about the cost of the drug or treatment alternatives.
Her symptoms subsided after she received two doses of the drug Anascorp through an IV, and she was discharged from the hospital in about three hours.
Weeks later, she received a bill for $83,046 from Chandler Regional Medical Center. The hospital, owned by Dignity Health, charged her $39,652 per dose of Anascorp.
The Arizona Republic reported last year about the pricey markup Arizona hospitals were charging for the antivenom made in Mexico. Pharmacies in Mexico charge about $100 per dose.
After the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug last year, Tennessee-based Rare Disease Therapeutics sold the drug to a distributor for $3,500 per dose. The distributor charged hospitals about $3,780 per dose.
The Republic polled several hospitals in November, finding that hospital charges for the serum ranged from $7,900 to $12,467 per vial. At the time, Chandler Regional declined to tell The Republic how much it charged for Anascorp.
Edmonds' insurer, Humana, has paid Chandler Regional $57,509 for the bill. The hospital has asked Edmonds for the balance of $25,537.
Chandler Regional issued a statement indicating that Edmonds' charges represented the out-of-network costs for her treatment. Chandler Regional is not part of Humana's network, so she was charged the hospital's full billing rate.
"We believe no one should delay seeking needed medical care because they lack insurance or have high medical costs," the hospital's statement said.
Edmonds, who is a counselor, knows the intricacies of health-care billing, but she believes the hospital's wholesale charges should be explained to the public.
She was astonished to see the amount she was charged. "Everyone I talk to says, 'You've got to be kidding,' " when she explains her bill.