Steep ambulance fees
Hank Investigates: Steep ambulance fees
An ambulance took Leonard O'Neil from the hospital to his Wakefield rehab center. The trip was one tenth of a mile--that's less than 2 football fields. When his daughter saw the bill for that ride: she freaked. Nine hundred and eight dollars!
Leah Sellers/Patient's Daughter
"It's horrible, it's horrible"
Now guess how much it cost for the ambulance ride Mary Lou Cashman took from her Natick hospital to a rehab center--four-tenths of a mile away? Here's *her* bill. Nine hundred twenty seven dollars!
"When you saw that bill, what did you think?"
Marilou Cashman, Patient:
"I think I was horrified by the amount."
Her niece could not believe it.
Lisa Natoli/Patient's Niece
"Close to $1000 to send someone to a facility that I can see from one place to another is ridiculous!"
Their insurance companies said *they* wouldn’t pay them. They'd decided the trips were "not medically necessary."
Both times, the ambulance was called by the hospital after doctors' orders. Leah's dad had a broken hip and was on oxygen. MaryLou was recovering from abdominal surgery.
"Could she walk?
"Could she have gone in a wheelchair?"
"Could you have taken her in a car?"
Hospitals say they only use ambulances when the patients need them. But health experts say patients don't realize insurance providers can reject rides *they* decide are not medically necessary.
Alan Sager/BU School of Public Health
HANK: Is the insurance trying to save money? Are they managing their costs?
SAGER: Every insurance company tries to avoid paying claims."
And that's how a 500-foot ambulance ride can cost you almost a thousand bucks!
"Did it ever cross your mind to ask: how much will this cost?"
Lisa Natoli/Patient’s niece
Ambulance companies explain: all that state of the art medical equipment and highly trained staff cost big bucks--so they bill a minimum charge the moment the ride begins. And we found: There's no regulation of ambulance charges.
And that leaves patients in the middle of a battle they never expected--one that puts their finances in critical condition.
Leah Sellers/patient’s daughter
"Families that are going through this thing don't need the extra stress of these bills."
If this happens to you--you can try to appeal to the insurance company--sometimes that works. You can also negotiate directly with the ambulance company--sometimes they'll make a deal.
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