If you have a medical emergency, you may need to be taken to a healthcare facility for urgent treatment. An ambulance can get you to your destination faster than other vehicles, and paramedics can keep you steady along the way — but the ride can be expensive.
An expensive bill is the last thing you need to deal with in this situation, so it’s important to have the right insurance policy to protect you. Here’s what you need to know about emergency services insurance.
The central theses
- An ambulance can get you to a hospital quickly and medical staff can treat you en route, but this is often expensive.
- Auto and medical insurance may cover emergency services depending on the circumstances.
- Car insurance usually saves you more money – if your ambulance trip is related to a car accident – because you don’t have to pay a deductible, co-payment or co-insurance.
- Always try to work with an ambulance company that is in your network. If this is not possible, check your state’s surprise bill protection laws and negotiate your bill .
The cost of an ambulance ride
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An ambulance ride doesn’t seem expensive, but you’re paying for a lot more than a fancy Uber ride. For one thing, the vehicles alone can cost upwards of $250,000. You can also receive life support, medication, and other medical care from ambulance staff while you are driving.
Although costs can vary significantly, you’ll typically pay anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars for an ambulance ride. Your actual bill will depend on factors such as the following:
- Location: Ambulances can be more expensive in some areas of the country than others.
- Mileage : Ambulance services often include a per-mile fee. If you get transportation to a facility further away, you will pay more.
- Mode of Transport : If you take an ambulance , your cost will be much higher, probably in the tens of thousands.
- Treatment en route: You pay for any medical care you receive in the ambulance, including the cost of any medicines or medicines you take.
For example, in California, the average cost of ambulance transportation is $589. In Irving, Texas, a resident under the age of 65 would pay $750 for basic life support, the cost plus a 30% markup on any supplies used, $15 per mile, and a $5 technology fee.
Auto insurance coverage for ambulance rides
Car insurance is usually the best option if your ambulance trip was the result of a car accident. Unlike health insurance, you don’t have to pay a deductible or co-payment. In fact, your car insurance can cover your deductible or help fund your health insurance if you need to use both.
You can cover the cost of healthcare due to a car accident with medical insurance or Personal Injury Protection (PIP). They’re optional in most states, so don’t assume you already have them.
Both can pay for your ambulance service and that of your passengers if you are involved in an accident. They can also help you if you’re a pedestrian and get hit by a car. However, there are some limitations. Most importantly, auto insurance will only cover ambulance if it is “ medically necessary .”
Medically necessary services are defined as clinically appropriate for your illness, injury, condition, symptoms or illness. Your insurance won’t pay for the ambulance ride if it’s primarily for convenience.
Health insurance coverage for ambulance rides
If you need an ambulance for anything other than a car accident, you need medical insurance to get coverage. Private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid cover ambulance services to varying degrees. Here’s how it works for each of these.
Private health insurance
Private health insurance usually covers medically necessary ambulance trips. Unlike car insurance, however, you often still have to pay for something out of your own pocket.
At a minimum, you must meet your deductible before your policy will help with your bill. Even then, you can opt for a co-payment or co-insurance , which would mean you would have to pay an additional lump sum or part of the cost over and above your deductible.
The only way to ensure your coverage is to check the terms of your policy. The best place to start is by summarizing your plan’s benefits and coverage. If that doesn’t give you the answers you need, you can dive into the comprehensive insurance contract.
As you review these documents, be aware of other limitations on your policy’s coverage. For example, insurance policies usually only cover transport to the nearest hospital that can provide the appropriate services. That means you may end up paying more of the bill if your ambulance takes you to the second nearest hospital.
Even if your policy covers ambulance services and you’re taking a medically necessary trip, you can expect surprising bills if your ambulance company isn’t on the web.
It can be difficult to avoid this problem since you rarely have time to check if an ambulance is in your insurance network or outside of your insurance network in an emergency. In fact, about 71% of ambulance trips trigger off-network charges, resulting in an average bill of $450.
Medicare and Medicaid
To cover an emergency ambulance ride through Medicare , you must have Medicare Part B. It covers medically necessary transportation to the nearest appropriate medical facility that can provide you with the care you need. You pay your deductible and 20% of the cost.
Medicaid also covers medically necessary ambulance rides from state-licensed providers, although some states have co-payments and restrictions on services. Fortunately, they are usually insignificant. For example, in Kansas, there is a $3 per-ride co-payment. Before you ride in the ambulance, check the regulations in your state to avoid surprises.
How to cover your ambulance bill
To cover an ambulance bill, make sure you have the right insurance beforehand. Consider adding medical insurance, or PIP, to your auto insurance as it will not charge you a deductible or co-pay for medical bills.
There’s not much you can do to keep costs down in an emergency, but if you’re taking a non-emergency ambulance, ask the provider if they’re on your network. If not, try to find another ambulance or alternative transport.
If you’ve already taken an ambulance trip and your insurance doesn’t want to cover it, check your state’s laws for protection against surprise medical bills. Some have restrictions on ground ambulance charges in emergencies.
Even if you don’t, try to negotiate. Contact your insurer and ambulance company, give someone a call and see what they can do to help you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does an ambulance ride with insurance cost?
If your car insurance covers your ambulance trip, you can’t pay anything for it. However, if you are only covered by health insurance, you may have to pay your deductible, co-payment or co-insurance. That can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
What to do if an ambulance company is not in your insurance network?
Before you agree to work with an ambulance in a non-emergency situation, ask if they’re on the network for your policy. If not, try to get another one.
If you’ve already completed your trip and received an ambulance bill because the company is off-network , check your state’s laws for protection against surprise billing. Whether or not there are such rules, still try to negotiate with your insurer and ambulance company.