Senior surprised by $315 bill for calling 911

Wisconsin Woman Stunned by Bill for 911call
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.

Social Security
Obama Health Care Policies
Best Health Care Systems in the World
Surprisingly Steep Health Care Expenses

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