Taking a trip in an ambulance may cost more than you’d think

More than half of individuals who have to be transported by ambulance to an in-network hospital will be surprised by a bill of $400 up to $1000.
Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 1:39 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A recent report on surprise ambulance bills has revealed that a single trip in an ambulance could set you back an average of $450.

In Arizona, those surprise costs could climb to $600, according to the Public Interest Research Group. Around 3 million insured patients go to the ER by ambulance each year, but half of that number end up with a surprise bill if the ambulance provider wasn’t in their insurance network. “We want to make sure every community is served by ambulances,” Patricia Kelmar, senior director for Education Campaigns for Arizona PIRG Education Fund, said. “The problem is some companies are charging way over their costs, and they’re price gouging patients at their most vulnerable times.”

At the start of 2022, the “No Surprises” Act went into effect to prevent surprise bills for out-of-network providers, including air ambulance services, at in-network facilities. The act itself actually left out ground ambulances, however. PIRG’s report says, “Balance billing occurs when patients are charged the difference between the in-network and out-of-network rate. This common billing practice throughout the healthcare industry is even more prevalent for ambulances.”

So far, only ten states have passed legislation to protect patients from getting surprise bills from ambulance companies. “We know the No Surprises Act is working well to prevent a lot of surprise medical bills and that’s really important for consumers, and it’s important for health insurance costs because those bills aren’t then being hoisted on in our premiums too,” Kelmar said. ”So now, we just have to close this final loophole.” The act does require a new committee to look into the issue of surprise bills for ambulance service, and the group will meet for the first time in January.

On Your Side reached out to a few groups in the ambulance services industry, but so far there were no responses or reactions to the PIRG report. In the meantime, if you end up with a surprise bill you can’t afford for ambulance services, PIRG suggests trying to work with your provider and insurance company. Ask for a discount for paying up front or a low-cost payment plan.

Neither option may be ideal for you or your family, but it’s a better option than putting the balance of the bill on a credit card and getting stuck with high interest rates. Want to check out PIRG’s full 25-page report? Click here.