Health Care Hacks (Season 2, Ep. 1) – Ambulance Bills

Health Care Hacks (Season 2, Ep. 1) – Ambulance Bills

Wee-ooo Wee-ooo Wee-ooo.
Okay, that’s my bad ambulance impression.
But if you think that’s bad wait to get a bill if you
have to use an ambulance. Hi my name is Jon, I’m your health care hacker. In today’s episode, we’re gonna talk about ambulance bills I am NOT a doctor. If you need an
ambulance, call an ambulance. but if you do need to call the ambulance,
let’s explain how ambulances bill. Typically there’s two components to each
ambulance bill. Tthe first is just a fee for them to be called and come pick you
up. Now this can vary from 500
dollars to a thousand, and if you have to take an air ambulance,
now we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars just for that initial pickup. In
addition to the pickup, they charge you on a per mile basis. Now, for a ground
ambulance, this is typically between ten and thirty dollars, but again if you have
to get an air ambulance this could be several hundred dollars for each mile
that the ambulance has to travel. So if you have Medicare, and you call an ambulance because it’s an emergency, you know what it’s going to be covered. They’ve been a
fee schedule, they’re gonna pay a certain amount. But for the rest of us that have
commercial insurance, we could get stuck with a big bill, even if we have great
insurance. And here’s the reason why. Most ambulance companies don’t have
contracts with insurers. There’s no network, they’re inherently out-of-network, and what that means is they can stick you with a large bill. So
let’s give a simple example. Let’s say you have to take an ambulance ride, and
they charge a thousand dollars for it. The first thing to do is the insurance company
will pay with the call “usual and customary rates.”
What are those rates? Uh, there’s no real definition. The insurance company kind of
says, well we’re gonna pay $400 in this case. That leaves six hundred dollars. What happens to the six hundred dollars? Because there’s no contract, the ambulance company could bill you that $600. It becomes your responsibility. Something called balance billing. Let’s just pretend this the first time you got sick all year, you haven’t hit your deductible. You’ll end up paying the $400 for the “usual and customary,” that’ll go against your deductible, then you’re gonna get a
bill for the $600 because the ambulance companies not in network. So that
ambulance ride just cost you a thousand dollars. So, what do you do if you get
that large bill? Well, the first thing you want to do is work with your insurance
company. Oftentimes you’re gonna want to look at
the EOB, on your explanation of benefit, at the bottom, in the notes in small
print, there might be a statement similar to “if you’re getting billed more by your
ambulance company, please call this number.” You should call that number.
Because what they’re doing is they’re gonna set up a one-time contract, even
though it’s out of network, that’ll reduce what you’re gonna have to pay.
They might increase the coverage of what they allow and not allow the ambulance
company to balance bill. So that’s your first option. If there’s no number, call
your insurance company anyway, ask if there’s anything they could do. If it’s
truly an emergency, oftentimes, not every time, but oftentimes they will cover more
and it’ll reduce what you have to pay out-of-pocket. If that doesn’t work and
your insurance company’s unwilling to help you, the next step is to call the
ambulance company provider. Sometimes if you’re willing to make a lump sum payment, if you try to negotiate with them and say, look, I’m able to make a payment today less than what I owe, but settle it and put it behind the both of us. If that’s not an option,
they’re not willing to do that, then you can offer go on a payment plan. So
use the ambulance if you need to, but realize it’s going to be really expensive and the sooner you can
get out in front of it and talk to your insurance company about what happened or talk the ambulance company, the better off you’re going to be. If you have a
question or there’s a topic you want us to cover in the future please email us at
health care hacks at We’ll try to address it in the future episode.

One thought on “Health Care Hacks (Season 2, Ep. 1) – Ambulance Bills

  1. Ambulance billed $1300 for a 2-mile ride (local to Kare 11). We got stuck with most of it. No reduction from the ambulance company (city fire department) I am still angry about it two years later.

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