Elderly woman evacuated in ambulance billed for ride

Mildred Cole was one of nearly 200,000 people who were evacuated in a dam emergency and was billed almost $800 for being transported in an ambulance

By EMS1 Staff

YUBA CITY, Calif. — An elderly woman who was put in an ambulance to be evacuated from a nursing facility during a dam emergency was billed for her ride.

FOX40 reported that Mildred Cole, 93, was undergoing leg rehab at the Fountains Nursing Facility in 2017 when the Oroville Dam emergency occurred, forcing 180,000 people to evacuate the area in case the emergency spillway failed.

Cole was put into an AMR ambulance for a 47-mile trip to Sacramento, and she was later billed $792 for the ride.

"They just put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me out," Cole said. "We were sent to different locations because you couldn’t find places for people like us.”

Cole’s granddaughter and caretaker, Heather Terpelle, said Cole cannot afford the bill, and Medicare will not cover it.

"It seemed pretty clear to me that they had codes for special circumstances like an emergency evacuation," Terpelle said. "I just assumed that the situation was an emergency. I mean it’s not like she could’ve called an Uber or something."

Terpelle said she contacted AMR about the bill, who said it was not a mistake.

Medicare said the ride was classified as disaster relief and that Cole could have been charged up to $2,500 since it was not a medical emergency.

"I was pretty disappointed with the attitude of the person that I spoke to," Terpelle said. "I mean, he basically had the approach like it’s sort of duh, it’s going to be denied. It wasn’t a medical emergency."

Terpelle filed an appeal with Medicare and said she feels for those who don’t have anyone to stand up for them.

"I feel for other people in [my grandmother’s] situation that don’t have a family member or someone close to them to help advocate for them. It’s been a struggle, I’ve spent hours on the phone," she said.


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