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Call Kurtis Investigates: 84-Year-Old Charged $3,000 for Ambulance Ride Next Door

(Lodi) Tom Kosta estimates seventy five yards separates the hospital from the medical offices next door where he had his MRI. The 84 year old doesn't understand why the short ambulance ride would cost so much.

"It's a lot of money, it really is," said Tom.

Already admitted to Lodi Memorial for dizziness, Tom needed an MRI and the closest machine was next door.

"$3000 to go from here to there?" Kurtis asked Tom.

"It's ridiculous #1 and it wasn't my idea #2," said Tom.

After all, Tom says he told the nurses he could walk or go by wheelchair.

"They said absolutely not, I had to go by ambulance," said Tom.

Lodi Memorial called for the ambulance.   Hospital spokesperson Carol Farron says it's for patient safety, even for such a short distance.

"It's not just our policy, it's every single hospital policy," said Farron.

But now ambulance company, American Medical Response wants Tom to pay his portion ($1,628.58) of the $3,089.78 insurance won't cover for a ride according to Google maps should take just 13-seconds each way.

"I didn't want them to turn me into collectors after 84 years. I certainly didn't want them to ruin my credit," said Tom.

"It's an outrageous figure," said Anthony Wright, Executive Director, Health Access, a non-profit consumer advocacy group.

Wright says clearly this $3,000 plus bill is inflated.

"That's not what it costs... and it's 4 to 5 times what insurance pays," said Wright.

"How could you charge $3000 for such a short trip?" Kurtis asked David Durand with American Medical Response.

"I understand what you're saying," said Durand.

Durand realizes it doesn't look good. He says medical costs are high in part to cover the 50% to 60% of patients who don't have money to pay for their ambulance rides. His company estimates they get paid 12 cents for every dollar billed, which raises the price for those who can pay. The government has limited reimbursement. For patients with Medi-cal, the average payment is around $140 for a trip including mileage.

"$3000 seems ridiculous to go such a short distance?" Kurtis asked Durand.

"It does and what you need to understand is, we're a private company, there are no taxpayer dollars that subsidize what we do," said Durand.

Typically an 84-year-old would have Medicare Part B coverage, which would pay a contracted rate to cover the ambulance ride. Tom is still working full time at his age and has private insurance which wouldn't cover the full amount.

However after got involved, AMR looked at the circumstances and felt for Tom's ability to pay, wiping the debt off the books.

"For less than $3000, I could get a round trip ticket to North Carolina to visit my grandchildren," Tom said.

American Medical Response says patients should realize they're paying for paramedics to be on standby 24-hours a day, 365-days a year, not just for the time they're transporting you.

They were on standby the entire time Tom was getting his MRI, in case something went wrong.

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