You are 77 years old, a senior citizen of Rio Rancho. You feel ill, so you call 911. Rio Rancho Fire Rescue/ EMS responds in a very timely manner. They find nothing wrong, and you start to feel better. They ask if you want to be transported to a medical facility, like Sandoval Regional Medical Center. You say no, in part because of the reassuring manner our fire rescue/EMS personnel who treated you. The EMS personnel do a final check of you, and with your blessing they leave the scene.

Many weeks later, you receive a bill for $136 from the city of Rio Rancho for EMS/Fire Rescue services. You are shocked and assume it’s a mistake. You call the number on the bill and are told the city has the right to bill citizens who call EMS and are not transported to a medical facility. You are told this policy applies to any citizen, young or old, for whom Fire Rescue/EMS is called and the patient is not transported to a medical facility.

You are flabbergasted. You assumed your taxes paid for these emergency services. The person you are speaking with says no, your taxes don’t cover these services. She goes on to say that when EMS transports a patient to a medical facility, the city charges their insurance company for the services. If you are not transported, the person requiring EMS is billed.

Now you wonder when EMS responds with Fire Rescue to, say, a house fire and administers medical assistance to someone with smoke inhalation, but they don’t need to be transported to a medical facility, does the city bill them as they do for any citizen needing EMS services but who declines being transported to a medical facility?

Now the issue is not whether the city can bill someone for EMS services when the patient is not transported to a medical facility. The issue is the person calling for EMS services is not aware if they are not transported to a medical facility, they will be charged $136.

To rectify this, when someone calls for EMS services, the 911 operator should be required to tell the caller if the person requiring services is not transported to a medical facility, they will be billed $136. That way the person has the right of first refusal for the services.

Now does this entire thing seem ridiculous? That is because it is. EMS services to citizens of any community should be available without charge irrespective if they are treated on scene or transported to a medical facility. If the rules don’t allow this, then 911 operators should be required to tell the caller the rules and the cost. That way the person calling for EMS has the right of first refusal for the service.

Harry Gordon

A Rio Rancho senior citizen