Wake Forest family questions $5,400 ambulance bill from Duke
Posted April 11
Raleigh, N.C. — When you have health insurance and need care, you get it.
Usually, you do it without thinking about the cost. But a Wake Forest family contacted 5 On Your Side about a post-care bill they feel is outrageous.
The issue – a 29-mile ambulance transport for their young son, 7-year-old Cooper Mohler. The bill ended up being more than $5,000.
Last September, Cooper was diagnosed with pneumonia, and because he was on oxygen, doctors wanted Cooper transported from Duke Raleigh Hospital to be treated in the pediatric unit at Duke Children's Hospital in Durham.
The Mohlers say hospital staff called in their critical care transport ambulance without discussing other options with them.
"It was the fanciest ambulance that I'd ever seen," Cameron Mohler, Cooper's mom, said.
"It was so cool," remembers Cooper, who spent the day in the hospital and completely recovered.
While the ride was cool to Cooper, it ended up costing his parents $5,422.25.
"No regrets taking him to Duke. I guess the huge question is why $5,500 to go 30 miles?" Doug Mohler, Cooper's father, said.
The ambulance ride, which ended up being about $187 per mile, cost roughly 43 percent of Cooper's entire hospital bill.
"They couldn't really explain it to me," Cameron Mohler said of the hospital's response to the charges.
After repeated requests for itemized bills and still no clear answers, the Mohlers contacted 5 On Your Side.
Surprise ambulance charges are an issue across the country.
Hundreds of people have submitted stories to Consumers Union, many who end up paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of pocket for ambulance trips.
For the Mohlers, insurance covered $2,960.55 of their trip. They owe the remaining $2,461.70.
5 On Your SIde reached out to Duke Health to learn more. Spokeswoman Sarah Avery said three levels of support determine ambulance charges, but she wouldn't provide WRAL News the cost differences.
The three levels of ambulance care are basic life support, advanced life support and special care transport.
Avery said doctors believed Cooper needed advanced life support the day he was transported.
The Mohelers question that and say they waited more than three hours for the ambulance to pick Cooper up.
Avery also did not respond to 5 On Your Side's requests for information about the options available to the Mohlers or their itemized bill. Hospital officials also declined to address the Mohlers' belief that they were taken advantage of at one of their most vulnerable times.
Looking back, the Mohlers say they wish they'd have taken Cooper to a pediatric hospital to begin with.
Now, they want others to be aware and to ask questions to keep from being hit with an unexpected bill for an ambulance ride.
Consumers do have the right to appeal how much of a claim is paid by an insurance company.