Does Insurance Pay the Bill for Expensive Ambulance Rides? (2023)

Call 911 for an ambulance and you're likely to have another heart attack when you get the bill. Ambulances are not usually free. They cost a lot to keep on the road and charge a lot to get you from point A to point B. How much will you pay? That's a question almost no one is going to be able to answer for you, especially not the paramedics.

This article discusses the cost of an ambulance ride, including how these rates are determined.

Does Insurance Pay the Bill for Expensive Ambulance Rides? (1)

Public vs. Private

Ambulances differ from law enforcement and most fire departments in that they can be privately owned. In fact, they are nearly as often privately-owned as they are to be public entities like a public health department.

In an emergency, you probably won't know whether the ambulance is run by the government or an investment banker. Paramedics are the same whether they work for the government or not. They don't care about the bills. They care about treating patients and getting folks to the proper hospitals.

Whether the ambulances are for-profit, non-profit, or publically owned, they're all going to send you a bill.

In many municipalities, ambulances are the cash cows with steady profits that help finance the other emergency services. (Or, in some cases, they're thought to help finance while not really helping much.)

Charges vs. Collections

When you are transported by ambulance, the bill is going to be pretty big. In the U.S., ambulances charge way more than they collect. It is that way all over the country. The reason is the collection rate.

(Video) How to fight surprise ambulance bills

The ambulance company might send out 10 bills for $1,500 each. Two of the bills might be paid in full. Another bill will be paid by Medicare at $450. Two more by Medicaid at $105 each. The rest might go uncollected because the patient didn't have insurance or an address to send the bill.

The $3,660 for all of that is collected and averaged across 10 ambulance bills. The bill for $1,500 becomes a collection of $366, about 24.4%, which isn't all that bad.

It's not unheard of for an ambulance company to collect 10% of its billings, or worse. That's not unique to ambulances—it's a problem in health care in general.

If ambulance companies aren't making enough on collections, why don't they just raise the rates? They could, but only a handful of payers are going to pony up the difference.

If you raised the rates 10%, only the commercial insurers are going to pay the full bill. So after billing out $1,650 ten times, you'll collect $1650 twice, $450 for the Medicare trip, and $210 for the two Medicaid calls.

Medicare and Medicaid fees are set by the government, so they don't really care how much you charge. The uninsured patients who blew you off the first time will still ignore the bill when it's 10%higher. After all is said and done, a 10% hike in charges will get you an extra $300, bringing the average to $396, still 24%.

Complicated Billing

Part of what makes this whole thing sort of ridiculous is the complicated process for billing. Start with the Medicare Fee Schedule published yearly by the feds, which is what Medicare is going to pay. Then add in complicated contractual "networks" of commercial health insurers.

If you ask a medical ambulance biller to explain how the bill is processed. they likely can't do it in a way that makes sense. They can do the billing, but they can't articulate it very easily. It's that complicated. For that reason, the paramedic crew that responds to your call won't be able to explain the bill even if they wanted to.

Expensive to Run

Where does all that money go, anyway? Ambulances are pricey. The medic and the emergency medical technician (EMT) are the most expensive part of the response.

(Video) Why Ambulance Rides Are So Expensive In The United States

You don't want to have a paramedic making minimum wage responding to your medical emergency.

According to a paperpublished by the Government Accountability Office, the medical crew makes up about 61%of the operating costs for that ambulance. Fuel, rent for the facility, administrative costs, maintenance, and supplies make up the bulk of the rest.

Add all that to the fact that the ambulance isn't always running calls. The ambulance might only transport a patient once every three hours.

Ambulance managers calculate a number to help them understand how efficient the ambulance company is performing. Divide the number of transports by the number of hours each ambulance is in service. That's called a unit hour utilization (UHU) and is sort of an ambulance batting average.

In fact, a good batting average is about what a good UHU looks like—something close to0.300 or so. To see how the ambulance is doing, multiply the UHU by the average amount that an ambulance trip makes. (In our example, that's $366.)

So, a UHU of 0.300 multiplied by an average ambulance trip of $366 would give you $122. That number, $122, is what our fictional ambulance earns per hour. That's less than most doctors. Out of that, all of those expenses have to be paid.

Incentives to Transport

Trips or transporting patients is the only thing most insurance companies, including the insurance run by the federal government, will pay for. They don't cover simply treating patients.

A paramedic or EMT could arrive on the scene of a choking patient and perform the Heimlich maneuver, saving her life. The patient is determined to be fine and does not need a ride to the hospital. However, the ambulance that just saved her life doesn't get a dime.

They can bill for helping her out, and many ambulances do. But, the reality is, most insurances won't pay it and most ambulances won't pursue it. When ambulance agencies calculate how much money they're making (or losing), they rarely include the non-transports.

(Video) Ambulance bills that insurance companies won't pay

Besides the fact that transporting is the only way to get paid, not transporting is the most common way to get sued. Leaving a patient at the scene of an emergency (or even a perceived emergency) is the most dangerous action a paramedic can take.

Evidence suggests that paramedics aren't great judges of when a patient is not that sick. So, there's a chance they could be wrong if they don't take someone to the hospital. And they don't get paid unless they do take them. Which makes more sense, taking or leaving?

What You Can Do

First, if you think you're having a medical emergency, forget the bill. Go to the hospital and get better. On the other hand, if you didn't call 911 and don't think you have an emergency, you can always just take Uber.

You always have the right to refuse treatment. Don't refuse it if you're really sick. But if you don't really need treatment and are concerned about a big bill, always be willing to stand up for yourself.


Many different factors go into determining the cost of an ambulance ride. Ambulance companies tend to charge much more than they collect. That's because only a small percentage of ambulance bills will be paid in full.

Operating costs for the ambulance also play a role in determining the rate. These operating costs include fuel, facility rent, supplies, and medical crew. Ambulance companies often only get paid when they transport patients. They may have several hours where they don't transport any patients.

Regardless of the cost, if you need emergency help, don't hesitate to call 911 for an ambulance. The most important thing is to get you to the hospital quickly and safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does it cost to call for an ambulance?

    (Video) Why Insurance May Not Fully Cover an Air Ambulance Trip

    It depends on the ambulance company. Some may not charge you unless they provide transportation. Others may charge for being called to the scene, even if you aren't taken to the hospital.

  • How much does an air ambulance flight cost?

    In 2017, the median price charged by air ambulance providers was $36,400 for a helicopter transport for privately insured patients.


Why are US ambulance rides so expensive? ›

Why are ambulance rides so expensive? Ambulance companies cite the costs of round-the-clock staffing, limited insurance reimbursements, and expensive inventory as reasons for high consumer bills. Ambulances provide everything necessary to save your life in an emergency and stabilize you on the way to a hospital ER.

How much is an ambulance ride with insurance in Maryland? ›

The fees are $700 or $750 per transport, depending upon the level of care required.

How much is an ambulance ride in Texas without insurance? ›

(5) A fee of fifteen dollars ($15.00) per mile shall be charged for the transportation by emergency ambulance of a person to a hospital.
Sec. 5-02. - Emergency service generally.
Basic Life Support (BLS)$750
Advanced Life Support (ALS) 1$850
Advanced Life Support (ALS) 2$950

How much does an ambulance cost in Michigan? ›

Ambulance Transport Fees Pursuant to City Ordinance 3.04.250, Effective Feb. 1, 2022
CodeDescriptionNon-Resident Amount
A0426ALS Non-Emergency$575
A0427ALS Emergency$740
A0428BLS Non-Emergency$415
A0429BLS Emergency$585
6 more rows

How much does it cost for an ambulance to come to your house in the US? ›

The average cost of ambulance services is around $1200. Still, the final cost can depend on many factors, such as the severity of care provided, mileage, the number of ambulance staff treating you, and the type of supplies used.

How much does an ambulance car cost? ›

In his video, Alex explained: "A fully kitted out ambulance costs between two and three hundred thousand pounds.

Does Maryland Medicaid cover ambulance? ›

Maryland Medical Assistance will cover emergency medical transport service when an ambulance is dispatched from a 911 Call Center, which transports a recipient from the incident to the hospital. Medical Assistance will pay $100 per transport, whether advanced life support (ALS) or basic life support (BLS).

How much is an ambulance ride in New York? ›

The last increase was in 2021. Back then, the price for an ambulance ride ticked up 16% from $775 to $900. The fire department's ambulance service — which costs roughly $600 million per year — handles about 70% of the city's hospital transports.

Is it better to call an ambulance or drive to the hospital? ›

All of this can happen while you are being taken to the hospital, which is why an ambulance is a better option than having someone drive you to hospital. Don't be surprised if the paramedic team drives past your nearest hospital and takes you to another.

How much does 1777 ambulance cost? ›

Is ambulance free in Singapore? If you are facing an emergency, the SCDF emergency ambulance that conveys you to a hospital will be free. However, for non-emergency cases, SCDF charges $274. For non-emergency ambulances in Singapore, you can call 1777.

Can you request an ambulance to take you to a specific hospital Texas? ›

Patients can ask an ambulance to go to a specific hospital even if it is on diversion. The ambulance will take a patient where he or she requests — unless, in the view of the paramedic crew, doing so violates local or state protocol or would endanger the patient.

What is the most expensive ambulance? ›

There are a total of only seven Lykan HyperSport units in the world and cost at about 26 crores for one. The car is capable of accelerating from a standstill to a 100 kilometres per hour in just 2.8 seconds and has a claimed top speed of 400 kilometres per hour.

Does Michigan Medicaid cover ambulance? ›

Michigan Medicaid Overview

Free transportation services, including ambulance and other emergency medical transportation, are covered benefits for Michigan Medicaid.

Do you have to pull over for an ambulance in Michigan? ›

Michigan's Emergency Vehicle Caution Law, more commonly known as the Move Over Law, requires motorists to slow down and move over for station- ary emergency vehicles with their lights activated.

How much does an ambulance weigh? ›

Weight Guides

Type I ambulance – 10,001 to 14,000 pounds. Type I AD (additional duty) ambulance – 14,001 pounds or more. Type II ambulance – 9,201 to 10,000 pounds.

How much is an ambulance ride in Canada? ›

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care sets a charge of $240.00 for using an ambulance. This amount is reduced to $45.00 if: You are a resident of Ontario with a valid Ontario Health Card, AND.

How much does an ambulance ride cost in Virginia? ›

Basic life support - emergency$500
Basic life support - non-emergency$350
Advanced life support - non-emergency$425
Advanced life support- emergency$600
Advanced life support - emergency with three or more medications combined with at least one specialized ALS procedure$850
4 more rows

Does insurance cover ambulance in us? ›

Ambulances are covered when medically necessary

In general, insurance will cover the cost of an ambulance when it is determined to be medically necessary. In those cases, insurance companies will consider the cost of an ambulance ride in the same manner as they would any other medical expense after a car accident.

Why is American healthcare so expensive? ›

The United States healthcare system is complex and most costs are market driven. High, unregulated prescription drug costs and healthcare providers' salaries rank higher than in other western nations, and hospital care accounts for 31% of the nation's healthcare costs.

How much does an ambulance cost in Los Angeles? ›

The rate for a private ambulance response for a call with basic equipment and personnel is now $1,305, and a response to a call requiring a paramedic ambulance is $1,852.

What are the 3 types of ambulances? ›

There are three main sizes of ambulance vehicles: Type I, Type II, and Type III. Type I and III ambulances both have a square patient compartment mounted onto a chassis. The main difference between these two types is that Type I ambulances are mounted onto a truck chassis with a cab layout similar to a pickup truck.

Is there a charge for an ambulance call out? ›

Ambulance services

The Dublin Fire Brigade provides an emergency ambulance service for the greater Dublin area. These ambulance services are free, and you will not be charged by the National Ambulance Service or the Dublin Fire Brigade. You can contact emergency ambulance services by telephoning 999 or 112.

What happens to old ambulances? ›

It will now go to auction so hopefully it continue to live on as a workhorse for someone else.” Ambulances are legal to drive on the roads, as long as the driver doesn't break normal road traffic laws. Before it is auctioned off, the vehicle will be stripped of all its livery that would identify it as an ambulance.

How much does an ambulance ride cost in Montgomery County Maryland? ›

Montgomery County residents do not pay for ambulance transports.

How much is an ambulance ride in Montgomery County Maryland? ›

County residents who call for an ambulance will NOT BE CHARGED – ever. Residents will never receive a bill or pay a fee, co-pay or deductible. 2.

What is Medicaid vs Medicare? ›

What's the difference between Medicare and Medicaid? Medicare is federal health insurance for anyone age 65 and older, and some people under 65 with certain disabilities or conditions. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that gives health coverage to some people with limited income and resources.

How much do ambulance drivers make in New York? ›

How much does an Ambulance Driver make in New York, NY? The average Ambulance Driver salary in New York, NY is $39,821 as of February 27, 2023, but the range typically falls between $38,274 and $43,895.

Does NY Medicaid cover ambulance? ›

Trips are arranged at the most medically appropriate, cost-effect level of service. These include public transit, taxi/livery, ambulette, ambulance (ALS/BLS), and personal vehicle mileage reimbursement.

Do you have to pull over for an ambulance in New York? ›

Drivers MUST use due care when approaching an emergency vehicle or hazard vehicle including police vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances, construction and maintenance vehicles and tow trucks. The Move Over Law applies to both sides of the roadway, not just the shoulder on the right.

Should I wait for ambulance or drive? ›

Many people think hopping into a car to an emergency room is faster and cheaper, but they could be dead wrong! In our community, calling an ambulance when it matters saves lives. Even if the scene of the emergency or accident is very close to a healthcare facility, it is always best to call 9-1-1.

What do you say to get seen faster in an emergency room? ›

As your friend did, you can always try to drop a big name, like say you're friends with the president of the hospital. In general, if they think you're a VIP (even if you're not), you'll definitely get seen more quickly. ...

How long is acceptable to wait for an ambulance? ›

We aim to be with the patient within 15 minutes of the time specified by the GP. Similarly, if your assessment requires an emergency response, make this clear to the call operator. Our non-emergency transport teams provide basic care including oxygen and Entonox.

What is the difference between 1777 and 995? ›

Singapore Civil Defence Force

If you require immediate SCDF assistance for emergency, please call 995. For non-emergency medical cases, please dial 1777.

What is non-emergency ambulance service? ›

Non-Emergency Transport Service (NETS)

Our Non-Emergency Transport Service crews also go to patients in an ambulance. But they help patients who do not need the clinical skills of a paramedic, emergency medical technician or emergency ambulance crew nor an ambulance on flashing blue lights. Some of our NETS fleet.

What is considered an emergency? ›

It is an emergency if waiting to get care could be dangerous to your life or a part of your body. A bad injury or a sudden serious illness can be an emergency. Severe pain and active labor are emergencies. An emergency can also be related to your mental health.

Do ambulances always take you to hospital? ›

We will take some patients into hospital or to another healthcare setting, but not always on blue lights and sirens. In what we call a “blue call”, we will alert the hospital before we arrive so they are ready to receive the patient and begin treatment.

Do you legally have to give way to ambulances? ›

The Highway Code states that motorists should give way to emergency service vehicles using flashing lights, including ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles.

Can you decide which hospital an ambulance takes you to? ›

For most emergency and urgent problems you will be taken to the nearest hospital, which will usually be your local hospital. They can then deal with the emergency problem; and, if needed, talk to, and arrange transfer on to a distant hospital that normally manages your condition.

Why are ambulance rides so expensive? ›

Why are ambulance rides so expensive? Ambulance companies cite the costs of round-the-clock staffing, limited insurance reimbursements, and expensive inventory as reasons for high consumer bills. Ambulances provide everything necessary to save your life in an emergency and stabilize you on the way to a hospital ER.

What is the most common type of ambulance? ›

Emergency ambulance – The most common type of ambulance, which provides care to patients with an acute illness or injury.

What are the most common ambulance calls? ›

What Injuries & Illnesses Do EMS Providers Most Commonly Treat?
  • Poisoning / drug ingestion. 3.5%
  • Diabetic symptoms (hypoglycemia) 2.5%
  • Stroke / cerebrovascular accident (CVA) 2.0%
  • Cardiac rhythm disturbance. 1.9%
  • Cardiac arrest. 1.8%
  • Hyperthermia. 1.0%
  • Allergic reaction. 0.9%
  • Hypothermia.
Nov 5, 2020

What is the maximum income to qualify for Medicaid in Michigan? ›

Have income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level* (about $18,000 for a single person or $37,000 for a family of four) Do not qualify for or are not enrolled in Medicare. Do not qualify for or are not enrolled in other Medicaid programs. Are not pregnant at the time of application.

Does Michigan Medicaid pay for transportation? ›

NOTE: Medicaid reimburses providers and Medicaid beneficiaries providing their own transportation at the maximum rates(s) listed on this database or the provider's usual and customary charge to the general public, whichever is less.

Does Michigan Medicaid cover emergency room visits? ›

Call your provider first for routine care or non-serious conditions. Medicaid and MIChild cover care in an emergency room, and related medical emergency transportation. This also includes emergency services, if needed, outside of Michigan.

Is it illegal to not move out of the way for an ambulance? ›

The ambulance crew are trained to negotiate traffic and may look to use the bus lane to pass, and you could get in their way or even get a ticket. Do not go through a red light to try to get out of the way as you may commit an offence. If it is safe to pass the ambulance will do so.

Can police exceed speed limit? ›

The police driver cannot exceed the speed limit or contravene road signs – no exemption should be permitted. Holders of a BASIC driving authority are allowed to drive police vehicles on enquiries only. The vehicle may not be used to respond to incidents of an urgent nature.

What color flashing lights are legal in Michigan? ›

Except as otherwise provided, a lamp or a part designed to be a reflector, if visible from the front, must display or reflect a white or amber light; if visible from either side, must display or reflect an amber or red light; and if visible from the rear, must display or reflect a red light.

Can you refuse an ambulance in America? ›

Yes, an adult can refuse an ambulance. The patient has to consent to treatment. Consent is either implied, as in the patient is unconscious, or it is expressed, as in “I have chest pain….”

Why is US healthcare so expensive? ›

The United States healthcare system is complex and most costs are market driven. High, unregulated prescription drug costs and healthcare providers' salaries rank higher than in other western nations, and hospital care accounts for 31% of the nation's healthcare costs.

How much is an ambulance ride in China? ›

A trip in an official ambulance costs about 500 yuan (HK$630) in Hangzhou, but the patient was charged 1,600 yuan by the fake emergency vehicle's operator, the report said.

What should you not call for an ambulance? ›

Call 995 For Emergencies Only

You can make a difference between life and death by knowing what is an emergency. For life-threatening cases such as cardiac arrest, active seizures, breathlessness, major traumas and stroke, call 995.

What happens in America if you can't afford healthcare? ›

If you don't have health insurance, you're at much greater risk of accumulating medical bills that you may not be able to pay. In a worst-case scenario, you could be sued and have your wages garnished. You might even be forced into bankruptcy.

What state has the best health care? ›

Hawaii is the top state for health care in the U.S. It has the best health outcomes in the country, with low preventable death (47 per 100,000 people), diabetes mortality and obesity rates. However, the state ranks fairly low for accessibility (No. 31). Iowa is the second-best state for health care.

Which country has the best healthcare? ›

South Korea. South Korea tops the list of best healthcare systems in the world. It's been praised for being modern and efficient, with quality, well-equipped medical facilities and highly trained medical professionals. Generally, treatment in South Korea is affordable and readily available.

Do you have to pay for ambulance in USA? ›

It depends on the ambulance company. Some may not charge you unless they provide transportation. Others may charge for being called to the scene, even if you aren't taken to the hospital.

How long does it take for an ambulance to arrive non emergency? ›

Category 4: Non-urgent

The Addendum to the NHS Constitution requires all ambulance trusts to: Respond to Category 1 calls in 7 minutes on average and respond to 90% of Category 1 calls in 15 minutes.

Can you cancel an ambulance? ›

“And remember; please call 999 to cancel an ambulance if it's no longer needed.”

Do Canadians have to pay for ambulance? ›

Payment for ambulance services is the responsibility of the patient unless they are covered by a government program or private insurance.


1. How much is too much for an ambulance bill?
(ABC15 Arizona)
2. $47,000 air ambulance bill for their child shocks family; the insurance company said it would pay $5
3. Consumer Reports: Surprise Ambulance Bills
(News4JAX The Local Station)
4. Life-Saving Air Ambulances Hit Patients With Hefty Medical Bills | NBC Nightly News
(NBC News)
5. Mother hit with surprise ambulance bill
(ABC Action News)
6. Consumer Reports: Ambulance bills excluded from No Surprises Act
(NewsChannel 5)
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