MORRIS COUNTY, New Jersey (WABC) -- A Morris County man suffering a heart attack says he nearly died after getting billed over $9,000 for an ambulance ride.
He appealed to his insurance and then to the hospital. When the sticker shock didn't subside, he made one last 911 call to Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side.
"I thought it was a mistake, I honestly thought it was a typo," patient Richard Kodack said.
Kodack's says his heart nearly stopped when he saw the four-figure bill after being rushed by ambulance to the ER last November.
"I called around 4 a.m., I had vertigo which I've never had before, and the bed was spinning," he said.
The father of two was suffering his second heart attack after calling 911. Saint Clare's hospital dispatched a private ambulance company. His wife's dashcam documented the 20-minute, 17-mile journey to the emergency room.
"They really didn't do much, they checked my blood pressure," Kodack said.
He survived his health scare but almost fainted when he got the bill. After insurance paid, his portion was still $7,323.
That's $430 per mile. Kodack, who is also the owner of a transportation company himself, couldn't figure out why the bill was so high.
"I noticed it was 17 miles and I looked at the cost and I didn't see anything itemized," Kodack said.
So, he appealed first to his insurance company but lost two appeals. Then he contacted Saint Clare's, the hospital that billed him.
"He said 'what do you want to do with the bill?' I said 'I want you to dismiss it,'" Kodack said. "'Why do you want us to dismiss it?' 'Because its $9,000 and you can't justify why you want to charge me $9,000 can you?' He says 'I can't.'"
And recently Kodack's own mother-in-law got bills for two ambulance rides for a combined $13,581.51 in charges.
After insurance paid, she owed just $271.
Eventually he took his dispute all the way to the hospital's CEO.
7 On Your Side contacted Saint Clare's in Denville, and within hours, they zeroed out the entire balance.
A PR rep said they were in the process of reviewing the bill when 7 On Your Side called. Part of the delay could have been because they were renegotiating their contract with United Healthcare, Kodack's insurance.
The whole bill was written off by hospital management, but they never explained why the 20-minute ambulance ride was so expensive.
A spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Health said one reason the charges are so high is because the state doesn't regulate them.
The big takeaway is if you get a big healthcare bill, first check the billing codes. Sometimes they're wrong, resulting in patients getting billed for services not rendered.
Then appeal the coverage with your insurance. And the best weapon for an appeal is a doctor's note stating the procedure or medication is "medically necessary."
Next, dispute it directly with your doctor or hospital -- that's what worked in this case.
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