Ambulance provider collecting every dollar it can, even from seniors
Better Call Harry follows up on ambulance billing
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Before Dave McCoy passed, his daughter, Sherri Householder, was blessed to be his caregiver.
On two occasions, McCoy was taken, by American Medical Response (AMR), to the hospital. The first bill for a four-mile trip was $1,993; the second was $2,199.
Less than a week after his first ambulance ride, Householder received a batch of documents. Page one of those documents read, “In order to bill Medicare and other insurances, we must have the signature of the patient.”
“There’s a lot of fine print about a master signature,” Householder said. “I’m thinking if someone in their 80′s or 90′s got this and it said, we’re not going to bill your insurance unless you sign this, they’d sign it.”
Signing does allow AMR, one of the nation’s largest ambulance providers, to file a claim with Medicare. However, it also authorizes debt collectors and AMR’s billing company, EMS Ventures, to contact her “for the purpose of resolving any unpaid balances.”
By signing, Householder would also have agreed to receive automated calls, texts and emails, and would have given collectors the right to obtain a credit report.
Signers also agree that “nothing herein shall relieve me from the direct financial responsibility for any charges not paid by the insurer.”
The householder refused to sign and was determined to reach AMR’s corporate office.
“I have never spoken to anyone at their corporate office,” she said. “There’s a brick wall between their customer service and their corporate office.”
The Better Business Bureau gives AMR a C-minus and an alert for a pattern of complaints, many of them from seniors. Two complaints came from people who said AMR billed them even though they didn’t take an ambulance. AMR explained those incidents were due to data entry errors.
”Like so many things in health care, you have to read the fine print,” said Cindi Gatton, a professional patient advocate and billing expert. She said as long as ambulance services remain exempt from Congress’ No Surprises Medical Billing Act, such billing issues will continue.
“It’s sneaky because they are co-mingling the requirement the patient needs to authorize them to bill their insurance, with the requirement that they’ve got to pay the bill if insurance doesn’t pay,” Gatton said.
The householder said the bills kept coming after her dad passed. But even though she didn’t sign any agreements or papers, AMR still billed Medicare, and both bills were paid.
Here are our takeaways:
If you receive any medical documentation and don’t understand it, don’t sign it.
Or find the sections to which you disagree, and strike them out.
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