Just how much do you think an ambulance ride to the hospital costs? Take a guess and then increase it by a lot. In a recent Washington Post article, Melissa Bailey delves into what is increasingly becoming a problem for consumers everywhere—the unexpected cost of routine ambulance trips. A common problem that I see with potential clients and those that I go on to represent is medical bills. The complex relationship between patients, insurers, and providers creates a confusing mess when it comes to billing. Often times, patients have no idea what they may be on the hook for once all is said and done. I hope this article helps shed some light on at least one part of the puzzle.
According to Betsy Imholz, special projects director at the Consumers Union, unexpected medical bills resulting from ambulance rides are a very large problem. In fact, the Consumers Union has collected over 700 patient stories, and many of those stories pertain to outrageous ambulance bills. For example, one patient received an almost $4,000 bill for a 4-mile ride. Another patient was charged almost $8,500 to be transferred to a different hospital because the first hospital could not handle his medical problem.
In Network or Out of Network
Most of the problem, however, comes down to out-of-network charges that result from ambulance rides that the patient had to take because of emergencies, or like the story above, had to take to be treated at a different hospital. According to the article, ambulance providers and private insurers cannot agree on a price, so the ambulance service doesn’t join the insurance network that covers the hospital, which results in out-of-network charges to the patient.
The good news is that 21 states have passed laws protecting consumers in some out-of-network scenarios. Unfortunately, the laws barely cover ambulance rides. At least Medicare and Medicaid set reimbursement rates for patients, but for those of us with private insurance, the federal government does not regulate ambulance fees. There are calls to impose some type of federal regulation over the nearly 14,000 ambulance services across the country, but things on Capital Hill move quite slowly.
As with many of my blog posts, I choose to write about topics that affect all of us as consumers. At one point or another, some of us have needed an ambulance. So this article won’t be much of a surprise to you. For everyone else, you may want to think about the costs before electing to take an ambulance in non-emergency situations. Hey, you can always take an Uber, or you can refuse an ambulance ride (as long as you are over 18 and mentally capable).
I will leave you with this: whether you are struggling with unexpected ambulance bills, or overwhelmed by medical bills in general, we can help. Call one of our offices nearest you to have a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney.