14 April 2022
A Wake County program promises affordable ambulance service to residents, but one Raleigh family believes it’s not all it’s advertised to be. The family contacted 5 On Your Side after using the service and receiving a huge bill.
Roger and Bobbie Joseph have been married for 63 years. As they’ve grown older, health issues have popped up and a little over a decade ago Bobbie Joseph was diagnosed with a chronic nerve condition
“She has something called Trigeminal neuralgia,” said Roger Joseph.
Bobbie Joseph said the pain it comes with is so excruciating that the diagnosis comes with higher rates of suicide ideation. Sometimes, the illness is referred to as the ‘suicide disease.’
“She’s been fighting it for years, but successfully,” said Roger Joseph.
With that fight comes more than a few trips to the doctor. So, Roger Joseph signed up for Wake County EMS’s $60 ambulance subscription.
According to the county’s website, the annual fee covers what insurance doesn’t during “any emergency 911 ambulance service, anywhere in Wake County as many times as needed.”
Last month, Bobbie Joseph had a flare up. She said that she was barely able to move. Roger Joseph called 911. The Josephs live near the Johnston County border and were told that an ambulance from Johnston County was on its way, because none in Wake County were available.
“I said fine. It doesn’t matter where,” said Roger Joseph.
He said he assumed it was covered because they were still being responded to in Wake County, and most importantly, Bobbie Joseph got the help she needed.
Weeks later though, the financial pain set in when the Josephs got a $236 ambulance bill.
“I said, ‘Whoops. That seems very strange to me,’” said Roger Jospeh.
Wake EMS said the subscription service only covers emergency 911 transports in Wake County that are done by Wake County EMS — a caveat that is hard to spot at first glance on the county’s website. It’s a the very bottom, under “more program information.“
Five On Your Side pointed this out to Brian Brooks, a chief assistant for Wake EMS.
Brooks said that there are two instances of this happening, including the Josephs. Brooks said he’s sorry for what happened and is committed to making sure everyone knows what they’re signing up for.
Brooks said that responding to a patient is top priority and sometimes that means another county is the right choice in the moment.
Johnston County has a similar subscription program. Adam Carroll, a spokesperson for Johnston County said they are aware of the Josephs’ situation and are working hard to make sure Johnston County residents know that their subscription program works similarly to Wake’s.
Brooks said he’s talking with other counties about extending the program. But for now, he said his best advice is to check how close you are to the county line because that will increase the likelihood of another county responding.
The Josephs hope one day Johnston County will be included in their subscription, but are happy that an ambulance showed up quickly when Bobbie needed it.
“I am right now, knock on wood-pain free,” Bobbie Joseph said.