The fight against surprise ambulance bills

When a medical emergency strikes, it’s vital to get to a hospital as soon as possible. About 1 in 10 times, Americans with insurance rush to the emergency room by ambulance. Ground ambulances transport an estimated 3 million patients to emergency rooms every year.

speeding ambulance

But even those with health insurance run into a common issue: Patients generally don’t choose their ambulance service. Either the injured party or someone nearby dials 9-1-1, and the dispatcher sends out a responder. Then, the patient is obligated to pay the bill.

Fighting against exorbitant ambulance bills

In December of 2020, Congress passed the No Surprises Act (NSA). The goal is to protect patients from various out-of-network bills, which can cost exponentially more than services that are in-network. The law prohibits surprise billing for emergency room services, air ambulances and most out-of-network care at in-network facilities.

However, it did not include protection from surprise billing by ground ambulances.

Congress has acknowledged that there is still important work to be done for the No Surprises Act. They are including provisions in the NSA to establish an oversight committee of sorts. The Advisory Committee on Ground Ambulance and Patient Billing is now tasked with reviewing options for protecting consumers from surprise ground ambulance billing.

ambulance statistics graphic

How many people get surprise medical bills?

Studies reveal that about half of all emergency ambulance patients are at risk of receiving a surprise out-of-network balance bill. These unexpected bills carry a median out-of-pocket charge of $450. In some states, the average is more than $1000.

Adding insult to injury are recent findings that about 90% of medical bills contain mistakes, such as improper billing codes, which can also affect the balance.

What is a balance bill?

Balance billing occurs when patients are charged the difference between the in-network and out-of-network rate. The disparity between charges is even more prevalent for ambulances.

Ambulance billing problems – by the numbers

Ambulances are responsible for the highest out-of-network billing rate in the country.

  • About $129,000,000 million is spent by insured patients on ambulance surprise bills every year.
  • In 7 states (at least), more than 2/3 of emergency ground transports could result in a balance bill.
  • 10 states have enacted laws to protect patients against out-of-network bills from ambulance companies. Unfortunately, these particular state laws only protect patients who are insured by a state-regulated health plan.
  • This means that 60% of those who get their insurance coverage through an employer are left unprotected.

Graphic listing 10 states with protections

A federal law is the clearest solution – one which protects all insured patients, whether through an employer or state-regulated program. Medical bills in the U.S. are a major factor in people going into debt – affecting an estimated 41% of adults. Surprise ambulance bills only add insult to injury.

If you have been injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you needn’t shoulder the burden of medical bills. You may be entitled to compensation, and can recover for your damages. Speak with the experienced personal injury attorneys at Allen & Allen to discuss your unique situation. For a free consultation, call 866-308-1307.