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911 calls could result in surprise ambulance bills

Washington Daily Life
Posted at 11:32 AM, Dec 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-14 14:32:43-05

We've had protections in place for nearly a year now around surprise medical bills.

The No Surprises Act took effect Jan. 1 and shields patients from getting hit with bills when they unknowingly get care out of network. But a big thing that hasn't been included is ground ambulances.

“You call 911, and that ambulance that's going to respond is selected by the dispatcher. You're not checking a network directory. You're not double checking before you get in that ambulance to know whether they're in your insurance plan," said Patricia Kelmar, senior director of Health Care Campaigns with US PIRG.

A new report out this week from US PIRG looks at the cost of this.

It found half of ambulance rides by insured patients are ending in a surprise bill. That cost can be $450 more than the typical in-network price and up to $1,000 dollars per trip.

“We need to get more data. We need to understand really what are the cost of ambulance transportation. And then we need to make sure that we're paying reasonable fees that keep these ambulance services, you know, working well in our communities, but also that a small subset of patients who need emergency transportation aren't paying the cost for everyone," Kelmar said.

10 states, including Colorado, Florida, New York and Ohio, have added their own protections around surprise ambulance bills.

But US PIRG found insurance plans you get through work are often excluded. A new federal committee is expected to take up the surprise billing issue for ground ambulances and how to prevent it in the future.. At its first meeting next month.

They'll have 180 days to come up with solutions.