Medical services can be expensive, but you at least expect to get something for your money.
But a Metro East man was stunned to get a $300 ambulance bill after he did not need to be taken to the hospital.
John Herndon is on oxygen. When he lost his balance and fell down the stairs outside his Caseyville home recently, he needed help getting back up.
“I just needed somebody to get me up, that's what I needed,” Herndon said. “The oxygen popped off and not having the oxygen, I panicked, everyone panicked."
Herndon said his daughter Shawna has a bad back and a bad knee and was not able to help her father back to his feet. Herndon said he was okay, but he just needed someone to help him up.
Shawna called the fire department to see if they could come help her father stand back up. She also asked for an ambulance just in case.
Paramedics arrived, helped Herndon to his feet and bandaged a small cut on his hand. The whole thing ended very quickly.
"Everyone left, I thanked everybody, everything else, that was it,” Herndon said.
But that wasn’t it. A few weeks later, Herndon received a bill for $310. The reason on the bill said “partial trans no-go.”
Herndon said he was billed for not going to the hospital. He was shocked.
"To charge me this one time, when I didn't go to the hospital and I didn't need to go to the hospital?" Herndon said.
Herndon and Shawna said the paramedics never told them that they would be charged for the ambulance if they did not use it.
Shawna said she can't believe the situation, and they know a thing or two about first responders.
Herndon is a retired police officer. He responded to countless scenes in his days on the job. But this, he said, is baffling.
“If you call me as a police officer at your house because you have someone prowling around, I go out and check it and don't find anybody, do I get to charge you? Would that be a false call?" Herndon said.
Officials tell News 4 that many years ago, Caseyville stopped having their own ambulance services. That's when they let the private company Abbott ambulance take over services in their town.
Abbott provides similar services to number of communities on both sides of the river.
News 4 reached out to talk with Abbott about their billing practices. After numerous attempts to interview them, they declined, instead sending a statement.
"Unlike some other services in the area, we are not funded by tax revenue in Caseyville, nor in any of the other areas where we serve as the emergency medical service provider. If we are called to respond, a patient can expect a bill for responding to the call," the statement read.
This is just the latest example of the growing trend of private businesses running what used to be free and public services.
News 4 called other private ambulance companies. Both Abbott and Gateway Ambulance services said they charge about $300.
But Medstar Ambulance Inc. in the Metro East charges $0 for a "no-go," although they said they might start charging soon.
As for the public entities News 4 checked with, both West County Fire and Monarch Fire Protection District said they don't charge for a no-go.
Experts said cities can set rates for what ambulance services will charge when they contract with a private company. But News 4 discovered that most of those cities in our area do not do that. Caseyville officials, for example, said they do not have a contract with Abbott.
Herndon said he thinks $300 for not using the ambulance is excessive.
“If it had been $50, I would have paid it and not even questioned it,” Herndon said.
But he said at the very least, people should be told that they will be charged for a no-go.
Herndon said he’s also concerned because his insurance has not been billed for possible reimbursement.
Experts said if you have an issue with a private ambulance charge, contact your city hall.
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