GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — If you're ever in a medical emergency, the last thing you want to worry about is cost.
A Green Bay man says a local ambulance company grossly overcharged for an emergency service he described as nothing more than an "Uber ride."
"They physically required you to be taken via ambulance," Corbin Asbury said. "You were given no choice."
Last October, Asbury needed emergency surgery for a hole in his intestine.
"It had to be operated on that day, otherwise I could go into what they call septic shock," Asbury said.
Asbury said a surgeon wasn't available at Aurora Baycare in Green Bay. So, he said doctors told him he needed to be taken by ambulance to HSHS St. Vincent, which is less than six miles away.
"I tried to ask if my mom, who was also there to transport me. They said no, because they had given me some pain medication and I was going to go to another facility that had to be transported to be via ambulance," Asbury said.
When Asbury was transported from Aurora Baycare to HSHS St. Vincent, he received advanced life support service, or ALS emergency transport. Superior Ambulance charged him $2,500 dollars for that service.
After insurance, Corbin was left with a bill more than $2,100.
"It's a little bit ridiculous because it's more or less an Uber ride," Asbury said.
NBC 26 contacted County Rescue and Gold Cross Ambulance service. For that same level of care driving the same distance, both ambulance services would have charged Asbury around $1,300, less than half of Superior Ambulance's fees.
"Each service can provide and come up with their own prices. Like I said, we are a non-for-profit, so we try to stay very competitive," Gold Cross Ambulance Administrative Director Heather Stenbroten said.
"I can't comment on what their cost would be in comparison to Superior because I have no idea," Superior Air Ground Ambulance Service Vice President Mary Franco said.
Superior Ambulance is a for-profit business and has a contract with Aurora Baycare.
NBC 26 asked Franco why the cost of the ambulance ride would be $2,500 when Asbury did not require any care other than supervision while inside the ambulance.
"I think that the fact that it's being described as a ride is really inaccurate, because if it was just 'a ride' then he should have just gone in a car. There was a medical reason he needed to be observed, transferred to a higher level of care," Franco said. "I think there is such a misconception of what our, of what private ambulance companies do. And, the cost involved with just having one ambulance on the street 24 hours a day and the licensing and the accreditation, and the training of our men and women."
We contacted the Better Business Bureau which tells NBC 26 over the last three years, 61 complaints have been filed against Superior Ambulance Service across the five midwestern states where they operate: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Five complaints were filed in Wisconsin.
In February, the BBB investigated Superior Ambulance's business practices due to a large volume of complaints of high or excessive fees for transport.
As of April 19, Superior Ambulance has not responded to the BBB's request for information.
Aurora Baycare declined an interview or comment on Corbin Asbury's case, but sent us the following statement:
"Any patient who needs to be transferred by ambulance, has to consent to being transferred and sign a consent form before transfer."
A patient can decline ambulance transfer, but in a health emergency, your cost for care may not be top of mind.
"When you talk about emergencies though, you're talking about quick patient care. Meaning, that person needs to go from point A to point B, they need a higher level of care. So you don't want someone to sit back and, you know, figure out the pennies," Stenbroten said.
Corbin said he has spent months trying to get answers about his bill from Superior Ambulance, but has yet to get a clear response.
NBC 26 asked Franco if Superior Ambulance would be willing to help lower Corbin's bill due to the short distance of transportation and the minimum level of care Corbin says he received.
"I'm not going to reduce the bill for those statements because, one, I'm not going to say it was expensive or not expensive. To the short distance, I'm not going to lower the bill because of that. Any patient that has a hardship with paying a bill, Superior (Ambulance Service) will work with them," Franco said.
According to the BBB, the number of complaints against Superior Ambulance continues to grow. We will continue to follow any updates.