Mother shares ‘insulting’ medical bill for EMTs to declare her son dead: ‘It was a punch to the gut’

Health insurance billed Vanessa Guite for a ‘deceased on arr (arrival)’ charge

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Wednesday 02 June 2021 21:41 BST
Vanessa Guite’s son Robin, 24, (pictured with his mother) died in May from unknown causes
Vanessa Guite’s son Robin, 24, (pictured with his mother) died in May from unknown causes (Vanessa Guite)
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A mother grieving the death of her son has received a nearly $1,000 medical bill from her local EMS so paramedics could declare her child dead.

Vanessa Guite of Buffalo, New York, was sent the bill just two weeks after her son Robin, 24, unexpectedly died on 6 May. The cause of death is still being investigated but his mother said it was likely an accidental overdose.

Following the death, Ms Guite’s health insurance billed her $859 for a “deceased on arr (arrival)” charge.

The EMTs “were there for about three minutes and left”, Ms Guite told The Independent. “There was absolutely no medical assistance. Basically they used their eyes and then left.”

Robin was discovered dead in his mother’s home that morning by his girlfriend, who was concerned because she hadn’t heard from the man. The last time Ms Guite saw her son alive was the previous evening.

After he was found dead, that was when Ms Guite called 911 and EMTs confirmed the death upon arrival, but the mother never expected a high healthcare bill for the service.

“It was unexpected and it was kind of a punch to the gut because every single day I am receiving worse news,” she said. “This was just like a cherry on top.”

The Independent has contacted Erie County, NY Department of Health for a comment.

Ms Guite shared the bill on Twitter, and it quickly went viral with people around the world reacting to the charge. “Honest-to-god got a bill for the EMTs telling me my son was dead. This is just among the zillion godd*** reasons we need universal healthcare,” Ms Guite wrote in the May tweet.

The post inspired other Americans to share their own instances of being billed by health insurance companies for obscene services, including one woman who said her family was billed for discharging her father from the hospital despite him dying.

“Years ago when my father died, the hospital billed us for his discharge,” the woman wrote.

Another person shared how they were charged $100,000 for an emergency helicopter service that was never used because the family member died before the helicopter landed.

“Luckily my lawyer fought it. Hope you can get that settled,” the woman shared with Ms Guite.

The mother described the bill as a “slap in the face for a grieving parent” just weeks after she lost her son.

“I understand that there is a need to make money in this country but they’re letting that lust for money overcome their humanity. This isn’t how you should treat people,” she said. “I understand that it’s an ambulance company and they need to keep operating but they could have a little compassion.”

Ms Guite intends to appeal the charge to her health insurance, Blue Cross Shield, but has yet to find energy to do so while grieving the loss of her child.

“You need the wherewithal to argue about these types of things,” she said. “Right now I don’t know if I have the wherewithal to argue with someone about something so … I don’t even know how to put it … Insulting, ridiculous, heartbreaking. I don’t want to break down or freak out.”

Her son was in school studying to be a vision care technician or optometrist while saving up to purchase his first car.

“Robin was growing into the man that he should’ve been,” she said. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

The family held a funeral service for Robin in May that allowed for anyone to come due to Covid-19 restrictions loosening in New York.

But now the family was left grappling with an expensive healthcare bill to declare Robin dead.

“We could eliminate this if we had universal healthcare and dignified care for people in this country,” Ms Guite said. “And if we stopped commodifying everything and putting profit as the first concern for every single thing.”

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