Get assistance paying ambulance bills.
Being rushed to the emergency room in an ambulance can be expensive. There is assistance available. Find how to get help paying an ambulance bill from a variety of programs and resources, ranging from Medicare to a charity that offer funds or even a health insurance plan. There are even ways to negotiate the past due bill or enter into a payment plan.
The price of emergency transportation to a hospital is costly for anyone, whether insured or not. The US GAO shows the “average” price is under $500 per ride, but they can run in the thousands of dollars. It is much more challenging to pay a bill if you don't have insurance or if the ambulance service isn't in your insurer's network. However even if you have government health coverage or a private policy, some policies don't cover ambulances.
The providers of ambulance services vary by locale. In some places, the fire department operates them. In others, it's a volunteer organization, a private company or a hospital. Costs run the gamut from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Find details below on how to get financial help to pay an ambulance bill.
How Rates Are Calculated
Ambulance rates are computed by the number of miles traveled and the level of care given, which generally ranges from Basic Life Support to Advanced Life Support. Typically, the former is administered by an EMT teamed with an assistant, whereas the latter, which is the highest level of care, often pairs an EMT with a paramedic.
Aside from the attending personnel, individual services and supplies can quickly run up costs. Among them are IV, oxygen, oxygen mask, medication, obstetrical kit, heart attack equipment (if applicable), needles, catheters, bandages, sterile gloves and ice packs. The patient needs to be for all of those extra medical costs during their transportation to the emergency room or hospital; it is not like the patient can deny healthcare while in the ambulance.
Ambulance Transport That's Medically Necessary
If you're on Medicare Part B or Medicaid, you have good protections in place to prevent a bill for thousands of dollars. The government offers financial help for ambulance bills to help reduce the cost and protect the patient. However, if you're not insured or have private coverage, you could get a shocker of a bill. read more on the free health insurance programs that may be options.
"Medically necessary" is the term to concentrate on. Insurers pay for a ride in an ambulance if they determine that the transport fits this category. Be sure, once the crisis is over, to ask the doctor or hospital to complete a form saying your emergency was “Medically necessary”. That means that if you could have been transported to a hospital by auto or taxi without being endangered, your claim will probably be denied.
If you are bedridden, unconscious, bleeding heavily or have what appears to be a serious condition or injury, most of your ambulance bill will be paid by an insurer. Or some non-profits or charities may also offer financial aid to help pay ambulance bills for medical necessary transportation. It can be a tough call whether to take an ambulance or not. When in doubt, many medical experts suggest calling for one and worrying about the cost later.
Coverage for Ambulance Service
You would expect health insurance to pay for a ride in an ambulance, but before getting into that, let's discuss when auto insurance does. When you live in a no-fault state, your Personal Injury Protection coverage under your auto insurance policy helps pay most ambulance charges if you're in a car accident. This means you can think of your own auto insurance (in these cases) as emergency financial help for that ambulance cost.
If you have Medical Payments coverage, most of your ambulance costs are paid by your auto insurer. With an Underinsured Motorist clause, most of your ambulance bill is paid even if the other motorist has no liability coverage. If the other driver is found to be at fault and that driver has Bodily Injury Liability coverage, most of your costs get paid too.
Be Proactive Before a Medical Emergency
Prior to needing an ambulance, find out if your health insurance covers ambulances. The key here is to do this before well before you ever need to use a service; even read the details on your insurance policy as soon as you get one. If it does not, get supplementary insurance to cover medical transportation. Take advantage of assistance from these supplemental insurance policies for helping to pay bills from an ambulance ride.
In some areas, you can subscribe to an ambulance service for a low annual fee. In others, taxpayer monies pay for ambulance service. Or look into assistance programs from the American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation.
If your insurer uses a particular ambulance service, know which one it is. That way, if an emergency ever comes up, you can ask the dispatcher to send that ambulance if circumstances allow that option. Before traveling outside your local area or abroad, see if your policy covers ambulances. Most policies don't provide coverage in another country, so you'll need to buy travel insurance.
Financial Help for Paying Ambulance Bills
There are some charities, such as Healthwell Foundation, or government benefits (including some disability programs) that may help pay for some or all of an ambulance bill. All of these organizations will have limited funds and strict application process. Any financial assistance to pay for emergency ambulance transportation costs is limited and hard to get.
While each charity or program has their own terms and conditions in place, in general some of those guidelines may be as follows. It needs to be medically necessary, and proven such by the hospital. The applicant needs to have a very low income and not be on Medicare/Medicaid or be uninsured. The condition needs to be non-typical, such as a medical emergency for a child. Note some charities offer financial help; most don’t. Find more information on how to get financial help from charities.
Since a ride in an ambulance may cost $500 or more, many low to moderate income Americans can’t afford an ambulance bill. While a small number of charities (such as those mentioned above) may offer assistance, most don’t. But there are other options to explore to get help for an ambulance bill or to pay off any past due debts. They include the following:
All of those of course have pros and cons. But there may be a few ways to raise money to pay the bills, and at the end of the day they can be forms of financial assistance to pay off (or maybe consolidate) any ambulance bills.
How to Dispute Ambulance Charges
The process of getting an ambulance typically begins with a call to 911. Or some people may call the fire department or police directly, but in a crisis 911 is the best option. A dispatcher asks you or someone at the scene questions and based on the answers sends an ambulance. The ambulance heads to the nearest hospital, not necessarily the hospital that's in your insurer's network. Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to request transport to your preferred hospital. Try some of the following to get relief from a bill you don't agree with.
- 1. Ask for an itemization. Did you get all the services listed on the bill?
- 2. Ensure that the statement has emergency codes and not non-emergency codes. This will be needed by your health insurance company.
- 3. Negotiate lower rates with the ambulance company.
- 4. Arrange a payment plan. Most providers just want to be paid even if it's not in a single payment.
- 5. Offer to settle the bill. Most ambulance companies would rather have some payment than zero dollars, so patients may be able to offer a settlement.
- 6. Take your dispute to your state insurance department. This depends on the kind of insurance you have.
- 7. Pay the ambulance bill in cash, as many providers will give a 10 to 30% discount.
- 8. Seek the help of your elected representative.
- 9. Contact the consumer reporter at your local newspaper or television station to bring visibility to the excessive charges to the public.
Dispute the Ambulance Bill with your Health Insurance Company
This is easier said than done. You need to appeal with your provider as to whether the emergency was "Medically necessary" or not. As noted, this is why it is important to get certification or a notice from the doctor or hospital. Most insurance companies use an arbitrator or third party if the dispute goes far enough.
This process often involves getting your medical records from your doctor, hospital or emergency room. You will also need to release personal medical data, be able to communicate why a Taxi or Uber/Lyft, friend, or family member could not have driven you, and you need to get personal. It will take time to appeal the ambulance bill, but it could be worth it.
Ambulances may be necessary for your medical emergencies, but before you need one, practice due diligence. Learn about the provisions of your policy. If you have no health insurance coverage, shop around for it. If you have limited income, look into Medicaid.
Sometimes there are just no ways to be pro-active in trying to reduce risk. Therefore, if you are in debt to an ambulance company or have past due bills, then look into charitable aid, loans, fundraisers, or so called “non-traditional” forms of funds. These too may help pay any ambulance bills you have. The bottom line is that a better understanding of ambulance service practices and insurance could save you money.