CALL 6: Lawrence family surprised by ambulance bill

LAWRENCE, Ind. -- A Lawrence family was surprised to get a nearly $2,000 bill for their son’s ambulance ride after a tumble down the stairs.

Carter Beavin, 1, fell on April 8.

“I was just like ‘oh my gosh, what if he hit his head or had a skull fracture or something’?’ said Sheila Beavin, Carter’s mother.  “My immediate reaction was to call 911.”

Sheila had never called for an ambulance before and had no idea what to expect.

She said the EMTs told her little Carter had to go to the emergency room via ambulance.

“It didn’t seem like they gave us a choice,” said Sheila Beavin. “They said he had to get checked out.”

Carter had a cut inside his mouth, but otherwise was fine.

A month later, medical bills started arriving including a nearly $2,000 bill for the seven mile ambulance ride to Community North Hospital.

“I was shocked,” said Sheila Beavin. “Maybe I should have called a taxi cab.”

Sheila was not working at the time, and found their high-deductible health insurance not willing to cover the cost of the ambulance ride.

She posted on the Nextdoor app and found neighbors with similar bills.

“It kind of felt good that I’m not alone,” said Sheila Beavin. “I’ve never been in this situation before.”

Call 6 Investigates reached out to the Lawrence Fire Department chief, who said the city raised rates last June, and those rates are comparable to other providers in Marion County.

"It's something they should expect,” said Chief Dino Batalis. “Everything has gone up, supplies have gone up, pay has gone up for the people who provide the service."

The Beavins were charged $1,800.85 for a basic life support emergent transport, plus mileage.

A more serious emergency could be charged more than $2,591 for a transport plus mileage costs.

Chief Batalis said even if you call 911 and EMTs show up, that does not mean you have to agree to an ambulance ride.

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"Just because they made the call and we're there, doesn't mean we have to transport,” said Chief Batalis. “But, we may encourage them to go by ambulance, but by no means can we make them go."

Sheila and her husband Kyle wonder if they should have driven their son to the hospital, and they want other parents to not take the decision lightly.

“People need to know, be prepared for a pretty large bill when you call for an ambulance,” said Kyle Beavin.

The family and fire chief do not want to dissuade anyone from calling 911 if they think they might need help.

They just want people to be prepared for what happens if you do need to call for an ambulance.

“I would not discourage people from calling 911, because if they’re in doubt, we want them to get the attention they need,” said Chief Batalis. “Sometimes people change their mind, and they call back and say they don’t want the fire department there.”

Lawrence does more than 8,000 ambulance runs a year, according to the chief.

After Call 6 Investigates got involved, the fire department and insurance company are working with the Beavins to reduce the ambulance bill.

Most providers will work with you if you can prove financial hardship and many offer payment plans.

You should try resolving billing complaints with the ambulance provider and their billing company, as well as your insurance company.

If you have a problem with your insurance provider, you can file a complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance.

If you have a problem with service or care from an EMS provider, you can file a complaint with IDHS.

Another resource available is the Indiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division..

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