Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses

Passengers Who Call Uber Instead Of An Ambulance Put Drivers At Risk (buzzfeed.com) 334

Sick people are increasingly using ride-hail to get to the emergency room, putting drivers in an uncomfortable position and a potentially tricky legal bind, BuzzFeed News reports. From the report: Mike Fish was driving for Uber 10 minutes outside of Boston when he picked up a second passenger in his Uber Pool who, he said, seemed "out of it, drowsy -- almost sedated." When the drowsy passenger asked him if Boston's Mass General hospital was the nearest emergency room, "that set off a red flag," Fish told BuzzFeed News. "I said, 'Do you need the ER?' He said yes. It came out that, over the last few days, he'd been passing out and losing consciousness." But instead of calling an ambulance to get the urgent medical attention he needed, the sick passenger called an Uber Pool. The shared ride would save him a few bucks, but it meant he'd have to wait for Fish to drop off the first passenger before he'd get to the ER. "I was a little nervous," Fish said. "I didn't know what was going to happen."

Ride-hail drivers are, by and large, untrained, self-employed workers driving their own cars on a part-time basis. They're not medical professionals. But as health care costs have risen and ride-hail has become more pervasive, people are increasingly relying on Uber and Lyft drivers to get them to the hospital when they need emergency care. A recent (yet to be peer-reviewed) study found that, after Uber enters new markets, the rates of ambulance rides typically go down, meaning fewer people call professionals in favor of the cheaper option.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Passengers Who Call Uber Instead Of An Ambulance Put Drivers At Risk

Comments Filter:
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:04AM (#56199635)

    More like $15-$25 vs $500-$1000+ more then a few bucks.

    • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:17AM (#56199699)
      Getting sick in US often means bankruptcy, nearly certain if you are under insured. So extra $1K for an ambulance ride on top of $100K+ for a short hospital stay won't matter - you are about to be bankrupt and homeless anyways. Better ask them to drop you off at the nearest bridge, so you can jump off it.
      • by The123king ( 2395060 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:24AM (#56199751)
        I'm a UK resident, and with the goverments campaign of saving money by shutting essential services, it may be a case that an Uber ride will get me to the nearest hospital much quicker than an actual ambulance. Heck, the bus might be quicker.
        • by SumDog ( 466607 )

          Are ambulances covered under NHS in the UK? I know in Australia they're not covered under Medicare (although doctors and the ER is covered). Its still way cheaper there ($300 ~ $500 depending on the city, compared to >$500 with insurance in the US), but it seems like this is something the State should cover. Emergency is an essential service.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Person147 ( 1924818 )
            Yes, there is absolutely no cost for calling an ambulance in the UK. Even if you don't pay National Insurance (effecively a tax to cover things like medical costs) I have never heard of anyone being charged for the ambulance. If you aren't a UK citizen or EU citizen with a special (practically free) card, then you technically attract a cost at end of any medical care you receive - which is seldom checked, charged or paid. I do not believe you get charged for the ambulance to get to the hospital in the first
            • by jrumney ( 197329 )

              If you aren't a UK citizen or EU citizen with a special (practically free) card, then you technically attract a cost at end of any medical care you receive

              Only for follow-up treatment after an emergency, or other non-urgent treatment. Emergency treatment and care is always free. And GP visits are free to anyone legally in the UK on a long term basis ("ordinarily resident" is the legal term, which in tax law means in the country for more than 6 months of the year, so the definition for NHS should be something similar, but their guidelines are more vague).

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I know in Australia they're not covered under Medicare (although doctors and the ER is covered). Its still way cheaper there ($300 ~ $500 depending on the city, compared to >$500 with insurance in the US), but it seems like this is something the State should cover. Emergency is an essential service.

            You don't know anything about Australian or US ambulance prices. Ambulances in Australia are run by the states, and are all completely different.

            In Vic you are looking at $1,000+. In Tas and Qld it is free. In WA, SA, and NT it is a private org, which is free for members. In NSW it is free of you have private insurance, or a heavily subsidized ~$300 if you don't.

            In the US (Cal) it cost me $150. That included the fire department sending a full fire engine to give me first response treatment until the pr

        • by niks42 ( 768188 )
          ... aaaand you will still find yourself parked up outside A&E since there is nowhere to admit you to. That's where all the ambulances are parked, rather than picking you up. At least in the ambo you have a chance of getting some life-saving treatment, a bit of oxygen and defibrillators. Hospitals don't have enough staff, or beds to admit patients in A&E to, since they can't discharge bed-blockers back to the community; so patients who have been seen, and need admitting are stuck in a cubicle. Meanwh
      • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @11:16AM (#56200109)
        The hospital won't come after you for that $100k. Not with any real force. Ambulance companies are billed out of a completely different bucket and they _will_ get their money. Ambulance companies have notoriously bad debt collection practices that most poor people are well aware of.

        Furthermore, you can't file bankruptcy anymore. Not for real. All you can do is restructure your debt and pay it. It's one of the major legacies of the Bush Jr administration. They gutted the laws. If the judge likes you, you can pay slowly, but you'll still pay. If the judge doesn't like you your just boned. They'll order wage garnishment on behalf of private companies for amounts they see fit. If you're in the south you might end up in a debtors prison via contempt or court charges. The judge orders you to pay, you can't pay, they lock you up for contempt.

        There's been a major shift in how debt works in this country that nobody really talks about. Considering our media is largely owned by billionaires that's not surprising. Regardless, what used to be unsecured debt is now secured against all future earnings and any property you might own when you die.
    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:18AM (#56199711) Homepage Journal

      I got a *copay* bill once for a transport from one hospital to another (4 miles) of $2300. The full bill was $3500. This was a municipal ambulance run by a paid fire department. I drove the injured kid to the first ER and the hospital staff did nothing to stabilize, nor did the ambulance crew. It took them 15 minutes to arrive too (10 minute drive to the other hospital). $0 value.

      I can't blame anybody who calls a taxi for anything that doesn't need on-scene EMS.

      • I can't blame anybody who calls a taxi for anything that doesn't need on-scene EMS.

        I agree with this. Last ambulance I paid for was $2,000 before insurance kicked in. I've never heard of a $500 ambulance bill. If someone is just "drowsy" for a few days like this article said then they definitely don't need to be paying for an ambulance because it's not really an emergency. Save the ambulances for the actual emergencies like trouble breathing, tired people can take taxis or Uber.

      • Truly a 3rd world medical system.

        I got heat stroke once. Called ambulance. Arrived within 3 minutes. I was in the hospital 10 min later. Discharged after being on fluids for 6 hours. Total cost $30 for the taxi home.

    • Yep (Score:5, Funny)

      by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:19AM (#56199725)
      but honestly, who wants to pay for single payer healthcare? I mean, the cost alone is -$17 trillion [dailykos.com]
      • by sinij ( 911942 )

        but honestly, who wants to pay for single payer healthcare? I mean, the cost alone is -$17 trillion [dailykos.com]

        But this is COMMUNISM! Dying sick and broke somewhere under the bridge is a God given and constitutionally protected right! Freedom! America, F--k Yeah!

    • by MitchDev ( 2526834 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:22AM (#56199737)

      Yep. Ambulances are insaely expensive (and may not take your insurance).

      My mom got sick at one of Detroit's casinos and they insisted she take an ambulance to the hospital rather than her friend driving her to the hospital and it cost her over $600 for a 2 mile trip to the hospital, no special lifesaving needed or used, just a ride on a gurney in the ambulance...

      Ridiculous

      • When my knee went out at work, they took me to the hospital in an ambulance. No medical treatment, in fact my knee popped back into place as they were loading me into the ambulance. $500! And this was over 20 years ago. I hate to think what it would be now.

      • Well.. all that equipment has been dedicated to her for the ride regardless of whether she used it or not. Unless she picked up someone else on the way!
      • While I agree the cost of an ambulance ride is ridiculous, the amount that's charged is actually in line with what it costs to operate one. Ambulances cost about a quarter million dollars [triblive.com] to purchase and outfit. So right off the bat you're at 10x the cost of a private car used for taxi services. Then you have to pay for the labor costs of two, sometimes three EMTs aboard instead of a single driver. And you're amortizing all this over a lot fewer rides per day than a taxi service. So it actually makes s
    • by XXongo ( 3986865 )

      At least. Or $2,000 or more [usatoday.com]. Or $3,660 [latimes.com]. Ambulences are insanely expensive. And the new thing: insurance companies are deciding after you have been diagnosed and treated whether you needed the ambulence. They can decide "oh, that wasn't life-threatening, it just seemed like it to you, but since it was not a heart attack, we won't pay for an ambulance ride.": http://articles.latimes.com/20... [latimes.com]

      HOWEVER, ambulances also bypass the first stage of emergency room screening-- they have radioed ahead and you ge

    • More like $15-$25 vs $500-$1000+ more then a few bucks.

      At least that much or more for even a very short ambulance ride in Michigan. Ambulance services are all private companies and if you've had rides in the past with them that you've failed to pay them for (which happens often as insurance has gotten very particular about what they will cover an ambulance ride for) they won't come when called. You're placed on a 'black list' if they send the bill to collection agencies and refused service. They're also infamous in the area for overcharging and/or charging for

    • More like $15-$25 vs $500-$1000+ more then a few bucks.

      So, in other words a ripe market for disruption by a new technology firm? I'm not joking...

    • I think he meant a few bucks on the Uber ride by using a shared ride instead of an individual one.

  • At least they're not burdened by socialised health care and free-at-the-point-of-use ambulances. Let the markets decide whether they live or die!

  • Easily fixed. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:13AM (#56199665) Journal
    Just update the EULA with a fine print that nobody can read to say, "uber is not an ambulance service. Please do use uber instead of ambulance".

    You get to keep all the cool cash. But no liability! Hey, it worked with "uber is not a taxi company" schtick, why not now?

    • by niks42 ( 768188 )
      And when you need mod points to up someone, there are none around. Exactly - a fingerprint waiver to say you understand the terms and conditions of the ride,
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:19AM (#56199721) Homepage
    After a motorcycle accident I was transported to a hospital for a strained shoulder. 24 hours later a firefighter showed up at my door and wedged an invoice under the threshhold. The bill? $1750.
    Now this story has an amicable ending because insurance covered this, however like all american healthcare its invoice-first. You're on the hook to pay for this service until you can claim or prove hardship, which in this case required two pay stubs and a gas bill. so if you get paid biweekly, thats a month without paying this bill, which is more than enough time for collectors to begin calling. This assumes you can immediately return to work to get paid, and most ambulance rides mean you arent going back to work anytime soon.

    the irony is that if companies like Uber paid any taxes at all, we might have a competent ambulance service that didnt cost as much as a used car.
    • Wow. You actually have to pay to get your ass saved? That's rough.

  • I've had to go to the ER for a non life threatening injury that prevented me from driving myself. I wish I would have though to call Uber or a cab. It would have saved me thousands.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kiuas ( 1084567 )

      I've had to go to the ER for a non life threatening injury that prevented me from driving myself. I wish I would have though to call Uber or a cab. It would have saved me thousands.

      Here in Finland the Social Insurance Institution actually will pay for your cab ride to a hospital for the part that exceeds 25 euros. That is, if you take a cab and the cost is 300 because of a long trip, you will pay 25 euros, the rest is covered by the state. Same goes for ambulances, the patient has to pay 25 euros for the ri

      • That's interesting. Canada is obviously also very geographically dispersed; some people come in to the hospital by plane or helicopter. There is still a small, highly subsidized charge for the travel because otherwise people would be making frivilous calls and consume resources. In such a free completely covered system, how do you prevent someone from faking a more serious condition in order to get a free ride?
        • by Kiuas ( 1084567 )

          In such a free completely covered system, how do you prevent someone from faking a more serious condition in order to get a free ride?

          For the trip to be covered the hospital needs to confirm that the trip was required. That is, someone can take a cab or an ambulance to a hospital with the cost being 25, but unless the hospital agrees that the trip was required, the trip is not covered and will be charged from said person in its entirety.

          This is enough to keep abuses minimal to my knowledge, meaning I'm at

  • It's really more of a statement on the cost of an Ambulance ride.

    Yes calling Uber or Lyft is not the right choice. They are not medical professionals, if you need care during the ride you are not going to get it. If you are infectious you could cost them days of work as they recover from your disease or cause your disease to spread not only to the driver but to anyone they carry after you. And the liability if your "illness" turns fatal on them.

    But then again when a simple Ambulance ride will start at ove
  • Which such a shitty health system, people use whatever they can to save some extortion money.

    Hundreds of thousands also drive to Canada/Mexico or even Cuba (not drive:-) to get drugs and hospital care.

    • You want to tell me a socialist hellhole has better medical services than the pinnacle of the free world? That's unpossible!

  • We live in such economic times with low income owing to stagnant wages (adjusted for inflation), inflation and expensive health care and what does the younger generation do in response to this? It does the math and picks Uber over the Ambulance because it's the economically practical thing to do to avoid being thrown out on the street. They also decide it's worth the additional risk to their lives from an economic perspective. At what point does America itself not recognize that we have serious social pr

    • We know the problem exists, but the 1% that own the government don't WANT change, they like wielding power over the "peasants". It will take a fresh revolution and 1% blood lining the streets to correct this at this point...

  • Driving people around is a shitty job; especially the sorts you will get at bottom dollar. I guess it's their choice to work for Uber in that case.
  • by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:35AM (#56199845)

    Some people are in bad shape and need medical attention or at least monitoring during their ride to the hospital. They clearly shouldn't be using Uber.

    But others are stable and just need a ride. They clearly shouldn't be tying up an ambulance that someone else actually needs. In fact, Phoenix has a program [seattletimes.com] where the fire department calls (and pays for) a cab for people like this who call 911.

    So a bright-line rule for Uber drivers not to take people to hospitals would be bad. And as noted in the article but cropped from the summary, people take taxis to the hospital all the time. Both taxi and Uber drivers need to (gasp) use their judgment to decide whether to take a given passenger on a given ride. This sort of situation doesn't seem any different.

  • Honest question... When you take an Uber, don't you think about who has pissed/barfed/bled on the seat you're sitting on and wonder how deeply it has been cleaned? I would.
    • Honest question... When you take an Uber, don't you think about who has pissed/barfed/bled on the seat you're sitting on and wonder how deeply it has been cleaned? I would.

      Do you also think that about the bus / taxi / public toilet / train / door handles / tables / keyboards / anything you touch in public ever?

      Relax, you have an immune system for this.

  • The question I'd ask (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bferrell ( 253291 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:42AM (#56199897) Homepage Journal

    Is the incidence of use "ride sharing" (Uber/Lyft/etc) over medical transport higher than say a cab?

    If not, this is a non-issue.

  • by FeelGood314 ( 2516288 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @10:44AM (#56199911)
    At least in Canada there is a good chance your driver is a doctor from the Caribbean or Eastern Europe. Our Ambulance service is pretty good here in Canada but you would be shocked at how many Uber drivers are doctors from poorer countries.
    • by elistan ( 578864 )
      I once used an ambulance in Canada. I understand there's no cost for people in the Canadian healthcare system? For me it was a flat $550 (ish) fee - they explained that the cost doesn't vary any regardless of distance, services or consumables. It was a transfer between hospitals, took over an hour, and I got a few doses of fentanyl during the trip. Good times.

      My MIL went to a US ER for a fainting spell, got transferred from one facility to another in an ambulance, the trip took 20 minutes, no other servic
      • It varies by province. Usually it's around $300. They have to discourage people from frivilous calls somehow.
        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          It has nothing to do with discouraging frivolous calls. It has everything to do with a technicality in the Canada Health Act that doesn't list Ambulances as a medical service, and as such, doesn't force it to be included in health care in Canada.

          Ambulance service in Canada is surprisingly new, and especially the modern variety where the crew on board is trained in advanced medical practices and does more than simply drive you to a hospital. As such many laws pre-date what we consider to be a normal EMS syst

    • You believe a cab driver when he tells you that he's actually a doctor (or engineer, or whatever)?

      Man, are you gullible.

      I have known a number of doctors and engineers (have helped the engineers get accreditation in Canada) and, while the process can be difficult and a bit scary, if they're legitimate professionals, they will go through the process.

      Amazingly enough, there are a ton of cardiologists driving cabs in Toronto that find the process of getting accredited too difficult which is a good thing if they

  • I have only had to call an ambulance once in my life. The one time was for my stepdaughter who passed out and hit her head. By the time they got there, she was up and on her feet. She said she felt ok now, but they took her to the hospital anyway. The hospital is about 1/2 mile away from my apartment. The doctors said that she just got up too quick and whited out. Nothing to be concerned with and the bump on her head was not a concussion. About a month later, I got the bill. My out of pocket expense was $8
  • The guy in west texas was forced to spend 30 grand because the hospital would not allow his son to transport him.
    http://www.wfaa.com/article/ne... [wfaa.com]

    Granted he was pretty dumb trying to snap a photo of a rattlesnake.
    The air ambulance thing from what I hear is basically extortion.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Granted he was pretty dumb trying to snap a photo of a rattlesnake.

      This is what telephoto lenses are for. Stop using your phones.

  • When the drowsy passenger asked him if Boston's Mass General hospital was the nearest emergency room, "that set off a red flag," Fish told BuzzFeed News. "I said, 'Do you need the ER?' He said yes.

    The first time a sick/injured person who does this dies or isn't treated in a timely manner sues Uber because an Uber driver didn't rush them to the hospital despite knowing they needed to visit the ER, Uber will institute a policy prohibiting drivers from asking passengers if they are sick/injured and need the

  • Here in Canada, ambulance fees varies by province, but they are subsided to a low rate - in Ontario it's $45, and in BC $40, for example. While it's true that we are ultimately paying the true cost of the service through taxes, ultimately it saves society as a whole money, precisely because people are a lot less reluctant to call an ambulance. With a subsidized ambulance service, people are more likely to call emergency services at the first sign of a medical issue, when the patient may be stabilized, and t

  • This is not rocket science. Charge people $900 for an ambulance call, and they'll start calling Uber instead. When I was researching my book on the rideshare industry I took four or five people to the hospital, including one who was really in bad shape. He was a former EMT, so he clearly understood the risks.

    My dad had Medicare and it the last ambulance call still cost him $200 out of pocket. Even the copay was more expensive than Uber.

    Charging for an ambulance is just wrong.

  • I would have asked my next door neighbor. I've given them rides there before.
  • I don't know why this is a story. There's absolutely nothing different here from the exact same incident on a city bus, or in a taxi, or when carpooling with your buddy next door (which is what Uber pretends they want to be). And you'd be incredibly naive to think that those versions of this same incident don't happen every single day.

    From the driver's standpoint it's actually very simple too. Do you feel comfortable transporting this person to the destination they're paying to go to?
    - Yes: Treat them as yo

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye

Working...