Advice For Seniors

By Doug Mayberry

August 18, 2014 2 min read

Q: Recently at our clubhouse, several members got into a conversation about what happens when someone calls 911 for help. Several asked, "How much does it cost?"

Everyone had his or her own opinion. Because we all may face making that call, could you share a few guidelines for us?

A: Emergency calls should be made only when a life-threatening event occurs, such as heart failure, a major fall, an auto accident, choking on food, a fire, gas or power lines being down, troubled breathing or sudden mental disorientation.

Emergency calls are your first line of defense and primary source for immediate help. When you call, the dispatcher will make a judgment call about the seriousness of the patient's condition and will send help.

Few people consider cost factors during their experiences.

Ambulance service is managed by fire departments, hospitals, private volunteer groups and cities.

Costs vary widely, depending on the service needed, location, timing, your private insurance, Medicare, medical code billing and many other variables. If you have private insurance, now is a good time to check it out. Every insurance company provides details about costs and reserves the right to determine whether the "emergency" qualifies as a true emergency.

After you call, be prepared to give the patient's name and location and a brief description of the nature of the emergency. The dispatcher may ask for other details.

Although you may be in panic mode, being patient and informative for the responder will speed up the arrival of emergency vehicles.

Ambulance emergency service is primarily a profit-making business, but there are a few nonprofits.

Be aware that you may be billed a few hundred or a few thousand dollars for transportation.

Doug Mayberry's weekly column, "Dear Doug," can be found at

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