Texas woman receives a $17,000 bill for a 2-mile ambulance ride

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HOUSTON, TX - Some rides can be very, very expensive.  What started as a fun weekend with the gal pals in Galveston, ended in more than a big headache.

"I started to feel really sick," recalls Bari Fishel.  "I was nauseous and I had a fever."

One of her friends drove her back to Houston, straight to the emergency room at The Woman's Hospital of Texas.

"They knew immediately to do a spinal tap and they diagnosed me with viral meningitis," she says.

Unfortunately, they told her that they didn't have a neurologist on staff, so she was transferred, by ambulance, to Methodist Hospital.  How much was the bill for that two-mile ride?  The surprise came weeks later, when she received the statement in her mailbox.

"The total bill was around $17,000," Bari exclaimed.

That's right, $17,000 for a two-mile ride on Main St.  Almost the price of a new car, for a service she didn't even choose to use.

"You have a right to choose your own ambulance and especially one that is in your network," explained consumer rights attorney David A. Fernandez.

Her health insurance only covered slightly over $600 of those $17,000.  It sounds like a joke, right?  And this is just for the ambulance.  Fishel still hasn't received the whole bill from the hospital.

"When I got this bill, I was completely shocked," she told us, "I feel like REACH is a specialized company… they also do the helicopters, but I just went in an ambulance."

So, what to do when you get an outrageous bill like that in your mailbox?  Do we have any right to dispute it at all?

"Any time you get a medical bill that you believe is incorrect or too high you have the right to dispute it with the creditor, in this case the hospital or ambulance, and of course with your insurance carrier," Fernandez clarified.  "If you don't have a satisfactory answer from them, you can always file a complaint with the insurance commission."
Lucky for Bari, she's okay health-wise.  Her life goes on, and she's getting ready for the battle with the ambulance company.