911 is Expensive - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

911 is Expensive

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One of the great things about America if you have an emergency and dial 911 within minutes fire rescue will be there to rush you to the emergency. But did you know you have to pay for that ride? And it can be expensive. It's why one woman called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- We take it for granted in America but if you are having a heart attack, get hit by a car, any medical emergency, just dial 911 and you know the men and women from fire rescue will soon be there.

Pat Sumner: "And I was just making noises, just swinging my arms around and he couldn't wake me and he couldn't open my mouth."

Pat's husband dialed 911 within a few minutes BSO arrived and rushed her to a nearby hospital.

Pat Sumner: "The next thing I knew I was in the emergency room. First time I ever knew what was happening."

Doctors told pat she had a seizure because of low potassium. Today her health is fine, but not her peace of mind.

Pat Sumner: "I'm getting my doctors bill which I figured I would. Then I get an emergency rescue bill of $980 something dollars, and I thought how outrageous."

A $946 bill to be specific from fire rescue for the four mile drive to the emergency room.

Pat Sumner: "That's $250 a mile that's pretty good even with priced gas is a little much."

Fortunately, Pat and her husband have health insurance. They told Pat they would only pay $300 for the four mile trip.

Pat Sumner: "Because they are out of network they are not on an emergency plan. Well when you call 911 you don't look in your book to see who you are going to call or who is coming to the rescue."

The bill was from BSO but they have a contract with Cooper City, who sets the rates for transporting emergency 911 calls in their city. When people pay their property taxes there is a fee for fire rescue ranging from the hundreds to the thousands for fire rescue. Pat thought that covered you when you dial 911.

Pat Sumner: "We pay taxes to Cooper City thinking that if there is an emergency they are going to come. What do you pay taxes for where it says fire and rescue on your taxes? What is that for?

Pat thinks fire rescue is great. She thinks a $946 bill for using them in not.

Pat Sumner: "What allows them to charge this much? You know is there something that says what they can charge?"

Well Howard, when you pay your property taxes it shows you pay a fee for fire rescue so can they also bill you for using the emergency service?

Howard Finkelstein: "Even though you pay for fire rescue in your property taxes if you need a emergency transport, you may have to pay whatever your insurance company doesn't cover, and if you don't have insurance you have to pay the entire bill yourself."

We contacted Cooper City who pays Broward Fire Rescue $6,700,000 for the county to do their emergency transports. Cooper City then charges $850 transport to get their money back, and they charge extra if you need things like oxygen, an IV etc.

If you are transported in unincorporated Broward it's only $450. Fort Lauderdale is $700. Plantation is $510. Miami-Dade is $800. If you want to know what you may have to pay if you call 911, check your insurance policy.

Howard Finkelstein: "If you have an HMO you do not have to pay for the emergency transport. If you have a PPO and they don't cover the entire amount, you have to pay the difference. And if you can't afford to pay, the city or county can sue you or turn you over to a collection agency."

Pat is stuck with the bill and says she believes once other people find out how expensive that 911 call can be, she wonders if others will hesitate before picking up the phone.

Pat Sumner: "Do I call? Do they call? They can be having a heart attack and they won't want to call because of what it will cost."

Patrick Fraser: "Now if you call the police, they don't charge you. If they handcuff you and take you to jail, they don't charge you. Why does fire rescue charge even though property owners pay taxes for that? Because they can. It's great that they are there and the bottom line, if it's not an emergency and you can find another way to get to the hospital do it. Save yourself a lot of money and free fire rescue up to deal with emergencies."

Not an emergency that's alarming you? Need someone to rush to the rescue? Contact us, we wont transport you like the professionals, but we will drive over to help you.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN

Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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