In the early morning hours of July 4, Crystle Galloway collapsed in her bathroom.
She had given birth by C-section a few days before falling down and her family says she hadn’t been feeling well since then.
Her mother says they called 911, but when Hillsborough County ambulance crews showed up, her mother says they quickly started talking about cost.
“The EMS came, the whole conversation was that my daughter couldn’t afford an ambulance because she had just had a baby. Did I want to spend $600 just to take her three blocks?” said Nicole Black.
Black finally drove her daughter to an urgent care center but she died later that night of a stroke.
Four Hillsborough County medics have been suspended for the way they handled this call.
Dr. Jay Wolfson is a distinguished professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine. He is not involved in the case of Crystle Galloway but says cost should not be a concern when you dial 911 and need an ambulance.
“You shouldn’t be worried about the cost for yourself or your children or your family members or anybody else. You call 911 because you are having a bona fide emergency, not because you’re having difficulty getting out of bed,” said Wolfson.
In Hillsborough County, the base fee for an ambulance ride is $800. The costs increase depending on the services provided and the distance to the hospital.
The county charges $12 per mile for the ambulance ride and adds fees for medicine and even oxygen. Oxygen costs $25 if you need it during the ambulance ride.
Dr. Wolfson says, even with the high cost, if your life is in danger, the ambulance ride is worth it.
“That ambulance service has to be available 24/7, so you’ve got to be paying for those people. You’ve got to be paying for the upgrading and maintenance of that very expensive machine that has the capacity to bring you back from the dead,” said Wolfson.
Ambulance rides from private providers can be more expensive and in some cases, may not be covered by insurance.
Dr. Wolfson says it you get a high bill when you get home, you can ask that it be reduced.
“Hospitals and ambulance companies are prepared to deal. When you get your final bill in the hospital and say, ‘My God, I can’t afford to pay this,’ you say, ‘I can’t afford to pay this but I’m prepared to pay something and I want it to be reasonable, I can pay you a thousand dollars,'” said Wolfson.
The time to ask for a lower fee is not when the ambulance arrives, but it may be possible to lower your bill when you are back safe at home.