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!

Hank:

"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.

Hank

"Could she walk?

Lisa Natoli

"No."

Hank

"Could she have gone in a wheelchair?"

Lisa Natoli

"No."

Hank

"Could you have taken her in a car?"

Lisa Natoli

"No".

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!

Hank

"Did it ever cross your mind to ask: how much will this cost?"

Lisa Natoli/Patient’s niece

"No!"

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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