Written by Nick Versaw
Updated January 7th, 2022
An ambulance is a type of emergency vehicle equipped to provide life-saving medical services while transporting you safely to the hospital. The services of an ambulance ride also includes staff members who are certified to provide basic to advanced life support.
According to federal government emergency medical services at EMS.gov, today’s emergency medical technicians (EMTs) have expanded roles as providers that help the community in a variety of ways. These include providing preventive care, basic treatments, and non-acute interventions.
Community intervention programs have been shown to reduce hospital admissions and emergency department visits. However, they increase the expense of a simple ambulance ride because of the added training and equipment needed.
When your life is on the line, a fast ride to a trauma center is critical. Saving lives is a top priority, but ambulance fees add up. And leftover medical bills can be an unwelcome reminder even when you do beat the odds.
The costs associated with emergency care are important for consumers to learn about. There are a lot of subtleties in health care pricing such as the differences between gross price, cash price, insurance price, and HMO price. Plus, during a crisis, you may not feel you have a choice and you can’t always plan for an emergency or ask about costs. Furthermore, only a few states have measures to prevent getting a surprise bill from an unreimbursed medical expense.
As we get into specific pricing, please note that while we strive to provide you with the most current information, prices change frequently. The information in this article is current as of January 2022.
How Much is an Ambulance Ride if You Have Insurance?
Emergency ambulance services may include pre-hospital and out-of-hospital services such as 911 dispatch, medical response units, field triage and stabilization, and ambulance or helicopter transportation to the hospital emergency room and between facilities. Most of the time, when you call an ambulance, you aren’t worried about the cost. It’s usually not until the emergency has passed that you realize what a financial gamble calling an ambulance can be as not all ambulance services accept all insurance plans.
A recent study by the University of Michigan found that around 72% of patients who used ambulance services could receive a surprise bill due to the service being outside their insurance network. The same study found that 79% of patients who took an ambulance trip had a median charge of $450, while by comparison, air ambulance providers charged an average of $21,698 after the insurance paid its part.
According to the Commonwealth Fund, only 21 states have laws to protect you from this practice. Balance billing, sometimes called surprise billing, is when you get a medical bill from a health care provider that equals the difference between the total cost of services being charged and the amount of your insurance reimbursement.
Three types of common out-of-pocket costs when you have insurance are your copay, coinsurance, and deductible.
Your copay is a fixed dollar amount you’re expected to pay at the time that you receive services. If you don’t pay your copay while you’re at the hospital, they will bill you.
Coinsurance is a percentage of the bill you are expected to pay. It is sometimes referred to as cost-sharing.
A deductible is a fixed dollar amount you will have to pay for any covered services before your insurance kicks in.
This is in addition to the amount you can expect to pay out of pocket after your insurance pays for ambulance service. Let’s say, for example, the out-of-pocket expenses you could be required to pay when you have an ambulance ride include a copay of $15-$100 upfront, coinsurance that may equal 10-20% of the total bill, plus any unmet deductible.
To determine the amount your insurance plan pays, including your deductible, copay, and coinsurance amounts, contact your insurance plan provider.
Ambulance Ride Costs Without Insurance
The amount you’ll be billed for a typical ambulance ride if you don’t have insurance depends on the services you require during your ride. Most ambulance companies use a fee schedule to determine pricing while others bill per line item, which may include:
- Time spent administering life-saving care like advanced life support (ALS)
- Medications that are given
- Machines used such as defibrillators and ventilators
- Mileage from the site of the initial call to the hospital
According to multiple sources, the amount of an ambulance ride can range from around $400 to $1,200 plus additional charges for mileage if you don’t have insurance to help.
How Much is an Ambulance Ride by Air?
Chances are, a ground ambulance is what you think of when there is an emergency, but there are other types, including air transport, sometimes called medevac. There are two types of air ambulances: fixed-wing and helicopter. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the average price for air transport via ambulance starts at $12,000.
The average air ambulance ride is 52 miles. Depending on the type of transport and the services needed, a patient can accrue an ambulance bill of up to $25,000. The reason for the high price tag includes the aircraft, which can cost as much as $6 million.
Cost of Ambulance Ride by Air With Insurance
According to Consumer Reports, air ambulance services may cost an average of $30,000. Costs are sometimes covered by your health insurance plan in certain types of emergencies or if a doctor certifies that air transport is needed.
Additionally, you can purchase a type of insurance that covers the cost of air transport specifically. All air transport insurance policies vary in pricing and coverage. Some air medevac providers also sell memberships that double as insurance if you need their services.
What Does Air Ambulance Insurance Cover?
Typically, insurance for air ambulance services covers inflight medical services and treatments including oxygen, and life support machines like ventilators. Sometimes, the flight price includes transport from the hospital to the aircraft, also called “bedside to bedside” service.
Be sure to ask if your coverage includes the cost for a family member or another passenger to accompany the patient.
Get Help With Medical Debt
Unreimbursed medical expenses are the remaining cost of medical expenses not paid for by your insurance company or another party, including ambulance fees, medical and hospital insurance premiums, copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.
For the 2022 tax year, you can deduct any qualified, unreimbursed medical expenses that add up to more than 7.5% of your 2021 adjusted gross income. This reduces the amount of taxable income you will have.
If you need additional assistance paying unmet medical bills, the federal government may be able to help. As well, may be able to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid services, or a low-cost insurance plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace.
At Compare.com, we believe knowledge is power. We have informative articles that teach you how to avoid debt by negotiating a lower medical bill. To manage future medical expenses, use our health care pricing tool to discover how much health care providers near you charge for thousands of procedures.
Compare Procedure Costs Near You
Compare Procedure Costs Near You
Nick Versaw Managing Editor
Nick Versaw leads Compare.com's editorial department, where he and his team specialize in creating educational content about insurance and other related topics. As an award-winning writer, Nick has seen his work published in countless renowned publications, such as the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and U.S. News & World Report. He graduated with Latin honors from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in Digital Journalism.