15/15. Paramedic here.
Gentleman called 911 from a restaurant claiming he had a migraine and was unable to see properly. He was literally 2 blocks from a hospital.
I've had migraines, I'm sympathetic. On the way to the call I was planning my treatment plan so he would be more comfortable during the wait in the emerg.
He was waiting outside, in full sunlight, waving at us. Thanked us politely for coming "to his rescue". Sat in the well lit ambulance, chatting up a storm, making inappropriate jokes, and laughing. Stating the whole time he has 10/10 pain from a migraine, and that only Percocet works to reduce the pain. He has them frequently, and wouldn't you know it, he's run out of his prescribed medication, and his doctor is on vacation.
The chef from the restaurant he called from came out and asked for his information. Our patient was "unable to pay his bill, due to the pain." He conveniently had no ID he could leave with the restaurant, and only had his debit card with him. He promised to come back, once he was feeling well enough to tap his PIN into the machine, but right now he couldn't. The chef knew 100% the guy was lying, but couldn't do anything.
As someone who has had a vomiting, shaking, vision effecting, migraine in the past, he did nothing to convince anyone he was in actual discomfort. I actually would greatly prefer if he had said, "I ate a meal I can't afford, and I'm addicted to pain killers, can you please take me to the ER." Honesty would have gotten him better treatment from everyone involved.
Edit: We took him to the ER. He waited in the loud busy waiting room reading magazines. I'm from Canada, so his ambulance bill is mostly paid by the Ministry of Health. Physicians can sign a patient as "non essential" which would cause the patient to be charged for the whole cost. The MOH has no guidelines surrounding what is essential and what isn't, so the MD/Hospital opens themselves up to a lawsuit if someone decides to sue because the MD signed their ambulance trip as non-essential. So this rarely happens.
Add to that if the patient is receiving social services from the government or has no fixed address, they are charged nothing at all.
The studies have been done, Paramedics/EMTs in other countries can tell you, charging people does not reduce the frequency of illegitimate 911 use.
[Image credit: Denis Pepin / Shutterstock.com]