Some have been forced in this economy to drop their pricey medical insurance. A Loomis man without coverage says first responders forced him to the hospital after his motorcycle crash. Now he faces more than $40,000 in bills he doesn’t feel he should have to pay.
It was a cool summer’s day in August when Terry Barth was out riding his Harley in Plumas County. The winding country road in front of him took an unexpected turn. Thrown off his bike, Terry was roughed up and hit his head. When the paramedics arrived, he says he declined treatment.
“I said I told you I can’t go, I don’t have insurance,” he recalls.
Against his wishes, he says they loaded him up anyway.
“And I was still yelling the words in the ambulance, I can’t go. I told you I can’t go.”
Rushed to a hospital in Quincy against his will, doctors then loaded Terry into an air ambulance to Enloe Medical Center in Chico which was the closest trauma center. Terry learned he suffered a concussion and a broken bone around his eye. Against doctor’s orders, he walked out of the hospital and went home only to get slapped with bills totalling more than $40,000 for the care he says he never wanted.
“I was kidnapped, I felt,” he said.
So if you say no, you don’t want to go to the hospital, do they have to listen?
“Yes and no is the answer to that question,” said Sacramento Fire Paramedic Jonathan Burgess.
He says normally it is the patient’s decision, but if you have a head injury like Terry had, or if you’re intoxicated or having a diabetic emergency, first responders are required to make that decision for you. Otherwise they can be held liable if something happens to you later.
“Your license is at jeopardy for patient abandonment, if you show up to a person in need of care and you don’t take them to the hospital,” Burgess said.
Terry doesn’t think he owes a penny and feels someone else should pay the blistering bill.
“Who forced me to go when I said no. I just know if they had listened to me, I wouldn’t have a bill.”
MediCal has a program to help the uninsured cover bills after an incident. You apply at the county level and must qualify based on your income. Enloe Medical Center in Chico has a community service program to help uninsured patients. Terry is working with him to reduce his bills. Terry says he did not have insurance, because he does not like going to the doctor. He is considering getting insurance now.