Consumerist Investigates Surprise Ambulance Bills

Daniela Nuñez
Social Media Program Manager

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Consumerist ambulance ss 2-24-16
In a medical emergency, getting an ambulance ride to the hospital can save your life. But what if the surprise ambulance bill you get after creates a financial emergency? Even with good health insurance, patients can still receive surprise medical bills from out-of-network ambulance providers in the hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Our colleagues at Consumerist recently investigated the problem of surprise ambulance bills and what to do if you get one.

If you’re calling 911, patients and family loved ones often aren’t in a position to ask if their care will be covered by their insurance. Patients often have little to no control which hospital they get taken to, and sometimes that hospital is outside of their health insurance plan’s network. Then comes a hefty bill. And we’ve seen how patients get socked with surprise out-of-network bills from anesthesiologists, emergency room doctors, specialists, or other health care professionals even when they go to in-network hospitals. But needing an ambulance ride and then later finding out that it was out-of-network adds another layer of surprise costs that no patient could reasonably expect.

So what is a patient to do if they get hit with a surprise ambulance bill? Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that your health insurance or Medicare will cover all the ambulance costs, leaving you stuck with the difference or the headache of fighting the bill. The cost to you will vary depending on your health insurance plan’s network and where you live. Some people will try to negotiate the bill with the ambulance company, or file an appeal with their insurance company. If you can’t afford the bill, contact the ambulance provider to ask if you qualify for financial assistance. Our campaign expert Chuck Bell says if the ambulance transfer isn’t too time-sensitive, it’s a good idea to call your insurance company to find out if an ambulance transport will be covered. You might not have a choice of ambulance providers in your area, but a phone call may help you avoid or minimize a surprise bill.

While ambulance surprise bills are only part of the overall problem of surprise billing, we have heard from nearly 600 individuals from around the country have shared their stories of surprise ambulance bills with us. Do you have a story about a surprise medical bill? Click here to share.

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