Dog bite victim shocked by medical bill

SHAWNEE, Kan. - Who would not stop to help an injured stray dog that had been hit by a car?

Cara West of Shawnee could not just drive on after witnessing a cocker spaniel get hit in Kansas City, Kan., traffic. She stopped her car and approached the dog.  She said it appeared to have an injured back leg. 

"I was trying to calm him… I reached down to check his tags and that's when he bit my finger," West said.  

The dog took off running.  West tried to find it but could not. 

With her finger bleeding, West contacted the local health department and her insurance provider to find out what to do next.  She was told to go to a local emergency room to receive shots for rabies.

West went to Shawnee Mission Medical Center to get the first round of rabies shots.   Then she got the bill. 

Her out-of-pocket expense was $2,320.  The total bill came to $31,312 which included a $30,168 charge for pharmacy services.

"I was in shock," West said.   

"While our high charges can seem outrageous, hospitals do not get paid what we charge. We typically negotiate with insurance companies to pay a percentage of our charges. While patient bills often list those higher charges, insurance companies and patients pay the much lower negotiated rate. For patients who are uninsured, we offer self-pay rates similar to those negotiated with insurance companies and we also have a charity care program," Shawnee Mission Medical Center wrote in an e-mail statement to Call for Action.

If you do see an injured dog, experts recommend you contact animal control of local police for help.

"We all want to help the animals. The best thing you can do for that animal is contact one of those agencies," Sarah Little of Wayside Waifs said.

Despite the pricey medical bill, West does not regret stopping to help the injured animal.

"I'm glad he wasn't hurt that bad. I just wish I had caught him first," West said.

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