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Sask. man wants to end ‘double billing’ for ambulance trips

REGINA – A Saskatchewan man is lobbying the provincial government to end the practice of charging patients for more than half of a round-trip ambulance ride.

Calvin Vollet, who received a kidney transplant in 2007, needed a biopsy at Regina General Hospital in early February. When bleeding couldn’t be stopped, doctors decided he needed to be transferred to St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon to see a transplant specialist.

Since patients have to pay for the whole round-trip regardless of whether or not the patient returns with the ambulance, the trip would have cost $1,539.

But according to Vollet’s bill, the ambulance actually transported someone else back to Regina, so he only expected to be charged half that amount – $769.

The trouble for Vollet was that legislation enacted in 1989 allows for health regions to charge each patient for 75 per cent of a round-trip, meaning Vollet’s ride cost $1,235.

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“Don’t charge taxpayers for the same service.”

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“When I first looked at it, I thought I got a 25 per cent discount,” Vollet said. He was then surprised to learn the total fees for the ambulance trip would be 150 per cent of a round-trip.

“I should have paid for the trip there, then the patient going to Regina should be paying the other kilometre charge.”

In question period Wednesday, Opposition NDP leader Cam Broten said the government should scrap the per-kilometre charge for ambulance service altogether.

“Stop the double billing, reduce the interest fee charges and have a cap in place,” Broten said.

‘Outdated policy’

Health Minister Dustin Duncan said the policy Vollet is upset about, which was enacted in 1989, aims to prevent empty ambulances from making trips without a patient, though he admits it may be outdated and will review it.

“Does it make sense today, in terms of what we know about ambulance operations, in terms of the use of GPS and other types of technology to streamline the services?”

Saskatchewan families raised the issue of costly ambulance fees in early March, saying they may think twice before calling 9-1-1 without insurance coverage.

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Vollet is hopeful his private insurance will cover most of his bill, but he’s concerned others without insurance or on fixed incomes may not be able to afford it.

“Use a little bit of common sense and don’t charge taxpayers for the same service.”

SEE BELOW: Copy of the policy allowing health regions to charge each patient 75 per cent of  a round-trip ambulance ride (highlighting by NDP)