Tom Kosta complained of dizziness when he went to see the doctors at his local medical center. But his head really started spinning when he was sent an eye-popping ambulance bill over $3,000, CBS Sacramento reports.
After going to the medical offices at Lodi Memorial, Kosta, an 84-year-old man from Lodi, Calif., was told that he had to go next door to the hospital for an MRI. When Kosta said he could get there himself in a wheelchair, doctors insisted that he ride in an ambulance. Kosta was then sent a bill for $1,500 -- the portion of the ride that wasn't covered by insurance.
“For less than $3,000, I could get a round trip ticket to North Carolina to visit my grandchildren,” Kosta told CBS Sacremento.
According to a spokesperson from Lodi Memorial, it's hospital policy to transport patients via ambulance no matter the distance in order to ensure safety.
American Medical Response, the ambulance company that picked Kosta up, said that patients often don’t realize that they aren’t just paying for the cost of the ride when they are billed for an ambulance. They are also helping to pay for paramedics that are on standby 24 hours a day each day of the year.
Ambulance rides often come along with high out-of-pocket costs, given that patients have little control over whether the ambulance that picks them up is covered by their insurance provider, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In many cases, an ambulance ride is covered only when it is considered medically necessary and other forms of transportation are dangerous, according to United Healthcare.
Generally, ambulance fees for someone Kosta's age would be paid for by Medicare, CBS reports. But Kosta still works full time, and therefore has private healthcare coverage.
American Medical Response forgave Kosta's debt when CBS got involved in the story. But Kosta isn’t alone when it comes to ambulance ride horror stories. A woman in South Carolina is still trying to settle the bill for an ambulance ride that cost her $1,000 in 2010.