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Surprise Ambulance Bills: A Consumer's Guide

Nov 29, 2017

Kaiser Health News
​Melissa Bailey
​November 27, 2017

Surprise Ambulance Bills: A Consumer's Guide

Q: What’s a surprise ambulance bill? 

When the ambulance service that picks you up is out-of-network, your insurer pays what it considers fair. And then — surprise! — the ambulance service sends you a bill for the rest.​

Q: What can I do if I get one?

Q: Can I avoid these bills ahead of time? 

Possibly, if it’s not an emergency. First, ask your insurance company: Which ambulance companies are in-network? What do you pay for in-network and out-of-network ambulance rides? If you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, you should be protected from surprise bills, though there are exceptions

At the hospital

If you’re at a hospital and need to travel by ambulance to a nursing home or another facility, you may have time to identify an in-network ambulance company. Ask which ambulance services the hospital works with and if any take your insurance. Even if the hospital is in-network, don’t assume the ambulance will be. 

911 calls

Q: When I call 911, can I choose where the ambulance takes me? 

Possibly. Most ambulances will take you to the “closest appropriate facility,” but protocols vary from town to town. If you’re not in dire condition, the ambulance crew may agree to take you to your preferred hospital. If you’re on Medicare, you may have to pay for the extra miles. If you’re set on going to a particular hospital, ask if they’ll take you there before you get in.

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