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Senior surprised by $315 bill for calling 911

Wisconsin Woman Stunned by Bill for 911call

SHOREWOOD, Wis. -A Shorewood woman is stunned to find out out what her phone call to 911 cost her.

"I got up, and I was dizzy and feeling kind of nauseous, and I thought, 'This isn't right,'" Shorewood resident Lois Sarrel said.

Sarrel had a rude awakening in early May.

"I guess I was panicking a little bit because women don't have the same symptoms as men for heart attack," Sarrel said.

She dialed 911, and soon a team of North Shore emergency medical technicians were at her door. Her vitals were OK; so was the electrocardiogram. They told her she wasn't having a heart attack.

"'But we can take you to the hospital,' and I said, 'Why would I go to the hospital if I don't need to?'" Sarrel said.

A week later, a bill for her 911 call came in the mail.

"For a grand total of $315.38," Sarrel said. "I can't afford this. I'm a senior. I'm living on Social Security," Sarrel said.

North Shore Fire Chief Robert Whitaker told WISN 12 News that many residents don't know their taxes don't completely cover 911 costs, so the department posts fees on its website.

Whitaker said most private insurance covers the cost, but Medicare generally only covers the cost if patients go to a hospital because otherwise, it doesn't consider the call "medically necessary."

Whitaker said he believes that's a bad policy because patients either make unnecessary trips to an emergency room to avoid a bill -- or, worse yet, they have Sarrel's reaction.

"I said to myself, 'I'll never call 911 again,'" she said.

Friday afternoon, a Medicare spokeswoman told WISN 12 News the agency doesn't want to discourage anyone from calling 911. She said a case worker will contact Sarrel to review her claim.

North Shore Fire said it wants people to call 911 and works with those with financial hardships to resolve their bills.

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T Rock August 18 2014 at 2:41 PM

Most phone bills include a charge for local 911 access already and property and other taxes should pay for these services. Now they expect the elderly to pay when they call 911? The elderly have paid in ALL their life already! Plus they paid school taxes every year even after the kids were grown! End the golden pension plans for politicians now.

Flag Reply +82 rate up
15 replies
englishfleck August 18 2014 at 5:07 PM

Is this the new method the states are using to kill off their elderly by discouraging them to call 911?

Billions for illegals and trillions for Iraq , etc but you charge your own elderly for calling 911.

Flag Reply +45 rate up
8 replies
debij August 18 2014 at 2:39 PM

No one should EVER have to pay for calling 911 (except those people who call 911 because someone cooked their burgers wrong).

Flag Reply +44 rate up
2 replies
htharley45 debij August 19 2014 at 7:47 AM

the EMS transported me less than 4 miles, that all they did. transport me from dr. office to hospital. my bill was 700and some dollars
and even added on a milage charge. to this date it has not been payed. when they give me a resoniable bill ill pay for it

Flag Reply +1 rate up
5 replies
bcwnremtp debij August 19 2014 at 4:00 PM

Paramedics don't work for free

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
chknpkr bcwnremtp August 19 2014 at 5:06 PM

taostop, I do not know how old you are but you should not be calling people deadbeats. You know nothing of this person's situation! You are a schmuck!

Flag +1 rate up
Elizabeth bcwnremtp August 19 2014 at 6:10 PM

Most of them do - rural areas are very much dependent on volunteers.

Flag +1 rate up
tesla5000 August 18 2014 at 2:48 PM

I find this story unbelievably
disturbing. 911 is not an entity
which recieves money from callers.
Who authorized sending this bill?
Had the women paid this bill, who
recieves this money? Does it go
in the pockets of first responders?
Who is going to be charged? How is
it going to be determined who is
charged? To what account are these
bills payable? Are these funds being
audited? Are all cities and towns
being charged? Is charging 911
callers a new policy? Is anyone
being made aware they are being
charged prior to responding?
If people are going to be charged,
they have a right to know this.
If they are not informed they
shouldn't have to pay, and if they
are informed, they won't call.
The police force and medical
response is paid for through tax
dollars, what right do these agencies
have to charge anyone? If it's not
already illegal, we need an
immediate new law to prevent this
from happening again.

Flag Reply +33 rate up
14 replies
grudgrime August 18 2014 at 2:04 PM

Seriously, she obviously had a legitimate fear...she thought she was having a heart attack. Unlike other stories I've heard of people calling because they get the wrong drive through lunch/

Flag Reply +23 rate up
2 replies
Tutu grudgrime August 19 2014 at 9:26 AM

If that was the case she should have gone to the hospital as medicare would have paid for it............

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
slloyd414 Tutu August 19 2014 at 2:34 PM

How was she to know? They EMT's told her she was fine, so why would she have wanted to go to the hospital to incur additional expense if she was being told on the spot that she indeed was NOT having a heart attack?

Flag 0 rate up
Mrs Linda Krause grudgrime August 19 2014 at 5:15 PM

How can u drive a car when u r dizzy & naucious....duuhhh

Flag Reply 0 rate up
larry August 18 2014 at 5:16 PM

What an idiot. How did she get this old and so stupid. The bill was NOT for the call as she stated in her story, The bill was for the response by the EMT personnel. That is not free., the call was. She got off lucky. Had she have been transported to the hospital, the bill would have been in the thousands. Wake up sweetie. This is reality ! ! !

Flag Reply +15 rate up
14 replies
wayne8734 August 18 2014 at 6:23 PM

In Gwinnett County of Ga.,if our alarm goes off from a intruder and our alarm co. calls the police, we are charged $25 for the police to come out.I guess someone is living it up on our taxes.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
5 replies
Mike August 18 2014 at 5:39 PM

Wisconsin can't even make good cheese. How can anyone expect them to have good medical care?

Flag Reply +10 rate up
3 replies
sugarcreekchile August 18 2014 at 3:51 PM

It's not uncommon to be charged for medical services by EMT's. Even if they determine your vital signs are ok, they'll recommend going to the hospital since they're not MD's.

The problem is with Medicare not the 911 responders. Instead of sensibly viewing a 911 response as preventive care and paying a 911 bill for $315, they only pay if you go to the emergency room and run up a huge bill even if it turns out you're ok. In these instances, Medicare operates on the pennywise, pound foolish principle.

Several months ago, I called 911 and had to go to the emergency room and was hospitalized for a gallstone. A few weeks ago, I called 911 because I was having the same symptoms but the stone passed shortly before their arrival, so I didn't need to go to the hospital or be checked because I was fine. The responders were very nice and told me they'd go ahead and check my vitals anyway at no charge since they were already there. The difference is I didn't require their services, she did..

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
change this scre sugarcreekchile August 19 2014 at 9:37 AM

Actually Obamacare take care of problems like this, under Obamacare if you're a senor citizen you should just die

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
Judith change this scre August 19 2014 at 10:58 AM

Obamacare does address Medicare and has improved it but, IMO, not in any way that really would really benefit seniors like me. If I purchase a Medicare Advantage Plan, I have to pay every time I see a doctor, go to an emergency room, am hospitalized - and as I have two chronic progressive illnesses I can't afford to take that chance as the out-of-pocket costs for my medical care just for the past year would have been more than what I pay for medigap and part D. With medigap coverage (aka supplemental insurance) I pay a high premium and I also have to pay for Part D which gives me the "privilege" of having insurance that allows me to just have a co-pay for medications instead of having to pay it all out-of-pocket. Still, as I said, it comes to less than what I would have had to pay out-of-pocket for an advantage plan.

Flag 0 rate up
slloyd414 change this scre August 19 2014 at 2:38 PM

Judith, it hasn't improved my Medicare at all.

Flag +1 rate up
zorak38735 sugarcreekchile August 19 2014 at 12:59 PM

Change this scre, this sounds more like the Republican Health Plan of "don't get sick and die quick"...

Flag Reply 0 rate up
3 replies
Kathy August 19 2014 at 7:59 AM

Well of course the ambulance service is going to cost you! Everyone thinks this service is "free" when 911 emergency is called. IT'S NOT. Like everything else in healthcare these days, the cost of ambulance service is not cheap.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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