SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. -- A local man recovering from a heart attack says his real pain began when the bills started piling up. He said an out of network 11 mile ambulance ride has him thousands of dollars in debt.
It all started in 2016 when Tim Klingenberg began feeling chest pain that just got worse. His son drove him to Valley Hospital.
"I had a heart attack," he said. "I had two main arteries that were pretty close to being fully blocked."
He said his loving family is all he could think about in those terrifying moments.
"You start thinking about your will, your grand kids, kids, what's going to happen," he said. "Thinking about my wife, things I could have done, should have done."
The one thing that wasn't on his mind was ambulance fees. A regret he now thinks about all the time.
"People need to know about this," Tim said. "I think there's a hole in the system."
Tim said when he arrived a Valley Hospital arrangements were made to get him to Sacred Heart. He said staff there arranged for Life Flight Network to take him there via ground ambulance.
"I had no idea this ambulance company was out of network," he said.
He didn't even think to ask, after all, he was dealing with a heart attack.
Once at Sacred Heart, Tim says doctor's performed open heart surgery. The following weeks were filled with recovery and bills.
"From Valley General to Sacred Heart, $5,082 for a cab ride," he said. "I was stable, we just talked, It was relaxed. Lights weren't on. It was a ride."
But those representing Life Flight tell KHQ, their service is so much more than that, referring to it as a mobile ICU. Not only is a paramedic onboard, but also a critical care nurse ready to take on any medical emergency that may arise on the trip. It was something they say was deemed necessary by those treating Tim.
Tim showed us a bill that states, that service includes $4,499 dollars for that "specialty care during transport" and another $583 for mileage.
The service wasn't initially covered by his insurance, so he appealed. His insurance ended up paying just over $1,400, leaving him with a bill of $3,623.63.
Tim says it's a big bill, that he believes could easily hit your family too.
"This is really painful for me," he said. "I'm just a regular family guy."
Valley Hospital representatives said they do not check to see if a certain ambulance is in a patient's network or not. They told KHQ their priority is simply saving the patient's life.
Life Flight Network officials told KHQ they will reach out to Tim directly Friday morning to try to work with him on a way to ease this financial burden.
They released the following statement:
“Life Flight Network cares deeply about the patients we serve. We are committed to ensuring patients receive the highest quality, life-saving ICU-level care, and we support patients during what can be a challenging time following a life-threatening injury or illness. We work one-on-one with patients to provide financial assistance options when insurance companies underpay. We offer a robust financial assistance program that can forgive up to 100 percent of the out of pocket expenses for transports to those who qualify. Life Flight Network also offers a membership program that covers out-of-pocket expenses for medically necessary and emergent transports by Life Flight Network.”