Should A Man Taken To The ER In An Ambulance Against His Will Have To Pay The Bill?


By David Lazarus

The Department of Health and Human Services also found that some urban ambulance services were billing Medicare for trips of more than 100 miles. The national average for an urban ambulance ride is 10 miles.

Los Angeles was among the four major metro areas with the highest number of questionable ambulance trips, along with Houston, New York and Philadelphia.

Cathy Chidester, director of Emergency Medical Services for L.A. County, said no ambulance can take patients to hospitals against their will. "That would be kidnapping," she said.

However, ambulance crews are authorized to make judgment calls if a patient is unconscious or unable to effectively communicate. Chidester said she's heard from some people who said afterward that, like Varghese, they didn't approve an ambulance trip.

"But the patient care records told a different story," she said. "The patient was usually disoriented and not speaking clearly."

As for an ambulance arriving unusually quickly, Chidester said this is probably an example of "posting." That's when an ambulance company stations vehicles at various places around the city or county, awaiting an emergency call.

"Posting gives a shorter response time," Chidester said. "They're not looking for people who trip and fall. But if they see something happen, they'll likely respond."

She confirmed what Guerra said: Ambulance services routinely charge ridiculous amounts knowing that insurers will pay far less.

If you feel you've been overcharged, Chidester advised, "call the company and ask if you can work something out with them."

And if you find yourself targeted by a debt collector, don't ignore the collection notice — assert your rights. Tell the collector that you're disputing the charge and demand written proof of the obligation. By law, debt collectors must provide such information.

The debt collector going after Varghese didn't return a call for comment. I also couldn't reach Varghese on Monday to pass along Chidester's advice.

If I had to guess, I'd say there was some confusion the day he got hurt but at least he was looked after. Better safe than sorry.

I can also say this: Varghese shouldn't ignore the debt collector. If he does, the damage to his credit score might hurt a lot worse than a sprained wrist.


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