How do ambulances and medical helicopters lead to extreme medical bills?
Ambulances and medical helicopters (air ambulances) are emergency services, but may be privately owned and operated. Depending on the company or municipality, length of transportation, bills can reach the thousands for an ambulance and tens of thousands for a medical helicopter. While some medical transportation can be planned in advance and may have alternatives, patients experiencing a medical emergency or medical necessity may not be able to consider price prior to taking an ambulance.
Understand how ambulance billing and medical helicopter billing work.
Ambulances are subject to the same out-of-network billing risks as other healthcare providers, except two factors exacerbate the situation:
- Patients that need an ambulance are even less likely to have a choice or the time to research costs and coverage. In fact, ground ambulances are explicitly exempted from recent legislation aimed at eliminating surprise bills.
- Ambulance companies are much less likely than other healthcare providers to be “in-network” with a typical insurance plan due to the diverse and fragmented ambulance industry, which includes many aggressive, for-profit operations.
How to handle bills due to ambulance and medical helicopter services.
Do not pay excessive ambulance bills out of pocket without researching your alternatives.
- As with other out-of-network services, state and federal laws may prohibit billing you for the balance of your claim.
- Negotiate with the insurance company and the ambulance company.