The "Uberlance" trend: People turn to Uber to offset high hospital transportation costs

People turn to Uber to offset high hospital transportation costs (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Risking their lives to save a few bucks. It's what some people are doing when they need an ambulance.

No doubt it will save some serious money, but using a “ride sharing” service could come with serious if not deadly consequences.

It's a new challenge behind the wheel for Uber drivers. Riders are taking it to the extreme when every second counts.

“They didn't want to dial 911,” said Brian, an Uber driver. “They didn't want to spend the money."

Instead of calling for help, riders turned patients are turning to Uber.

“You could hit your Uber button and in 30 seconds have a ride at your front door,” said Brian.

The new trend is forcing Uber drivers to act as first responders. The drivers asked to not have their identities revealed, but they still wanted to tell their stories of what is now being referred to as “Uberlance.”

“I said to him ‘why didn't you call an ambulance?’ His hand was bleeding. He goes ‘because you're quicker and you're cheaper,’” said “Johnny”, an Uber driver.

“I've had people get in my car, they're dizzy, they don't feel well, their chest hurts,” said “Brian”, an Uber driver.

Drivers say passengers opt for Uber over an ambulance for speed and cost.

In the Tri-State, it was found that 911 ambulance rides to the hospital cost hundreds. $500 to $900 on average.

Your health insurance might cover a portion, but in Cincinnati for instance, an ambulance ride will set you back about $249 out of pocket after insurance.

Yet an Uber ride is about $20 or less.

Uber drivers could be found chatting about the issue in online forums. Some say they're worried about liability and others say they no longer want to accept rides to the hospital out of fear it's a critical emergency.

Yet one Uber driver in a part of Florida where an ambulance is $650 plus $13 a mile says prices are so high that he himself would call for an “Uberlance.”

"Depending on my injury, I’d call Uber because they're quicker and a hell of a lot cheaper,” said “Johnny.”

“They'll call Uber to transport them because they know they'll get there safely,” said Dr. Jeffrey Ingeman, an emergency room physician.

Emergency room Dr. Jeffrey Ingeman says he's seeing the trend first hand: Patients rolling up to hospitals, not in an ambulance, but instead climbing out of an Uber.

“If you need to call 911, by all means, they provide the best service,” said Dr. Ingelman. “But if you think you don’t need to go to the ER, you've got something you don't want to burden the EMS system, Uber is great."

“You want to get them their safely and you want to make sure they're not going to die on you,” said “Brian”, and Uber driver.

Physicians at Tri-Health say that they have rarely seen a service like Uber or Lyft take a patient to the ER, but they don't track it.

Saint Elizabeth Medical Center says the ER is seeing Uber and other similar services, but at this time have no specific numbers on the trend.

Also, they have a team starting to explore alternative modes of transportation to help people at least get to their appointments for greater access, but using something like Uber when there is a critical emergency is a concern to them.

Just to be clear, medical professionals stress that if you have a real emergency you need to call 911 as Uber drivers are not equipped or trained to handle medical emergencies.

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