Wednesday, December 03, 2008

One Heckuva Taxi Ride

Yesterday, we got a statement from our local ambulance company for Dad's transportation to the air ambulance on his way to San Francisco. Mind you, this isn't the air-ambulance bill: it's the bill for the ground ambulance to pick up a stable patient and drive him to an airfield for transfer to an airplane.

Bill: $1,443.00.

Fortunately, the statement explains that Dad has insurance (thank God!) and that they just need his signature to process the claim. We can do that! No problemo!

There are a few things I don't get here. One is that I've read that paramedics make, like, $23,000 a year, which is criminal considering the work they do. They aren't getting this money, so where's it going?

Also, when Dad collapsed after getting here and was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital, that bill was only (only!) $909. In that case, he needed medical treatment in our garage and on the ambulance: BP and 02 monitors, oxygen, an IV, etc. When he was picked up at the VA, all of that was already in place, right? So why was the second ride more expensive?

It must be distance. I know the first bill said that was a four-mile ride, and presumably the drive to the airfield was longer.

But, still. Dang!


  1. Ouch! Very glad your Dad has insurance. This does sound like highway robbery, but I suspect part of the cost is "malpractice insurance". This is surely one area where a detailed list of expense items should accompany a bill.


  2. Highway robbery! Heh! Yes, exactly!

  3. Not to defend the ambulance companies, but there's a lot of overhead involved in the business. Ambulances themselves aren't cheap, then there's equipping them with all the items the paramedics need, until recently the cost of gasoline has been a major factor, and don't get me started on the expense involved in insurance (both on the vehicle and liability for the crew).

    In the end it costs a serious hunk of change to run an ambulance company.

  4. I think the difference may also be in the quality of training each ambulance crew had; when your dad was picked up at your house, he was picked up by the closest team of EMTs. When he was picked up at the hospital, he was probably picked up by Critical Care-trained EMTs, who brought the ambulance with the critical care stuff on it. Also, while some of the things were already in place from the hospital, a lot of what your dad was carrying with him would have been switched to the ambulance crew's stuff--IV poles, oxygen tanks, monitoring equipment (which can be different enough that you have to redo the patches as well as the wiring and monitor) and such, because the hospital isn't going to send their equipment that they paid to over to SF.

    Also, while the ambulance company only charged you for the time it was transporting your dad, they still paid their EMTs to be ready to pick someone up at a moment's notice.

    That said, it's still a huge chunk of change.


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