Does insurance cover ambulance rides?

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If your medical insurance doesn't cover ambulance rides, accident insurance can help cover the costs.

If you need urgent medical attention, you’ll likely be taken to a hospital in an ambulance. Unfortunately, your insurance may not cover the cost of an ambulance ride and ambulances are no longer free. That means that people who need an ambulance because of a health emergency can get stuck with fees for an ambulance. If your medical insurance does not cover ambulance rides, there are supplemental insurance options like accident insurance that can help you cover the costs. 

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Ambulances aren’t free

As little as 40 years ago most ambulance rides were free.¹ That was because ambulances and paramedic care were treated the same as fire services or police services. The town or city paid for the ambulance service the same way that they paid for and regulated fire service and police service. But these days ambulance companies have gone private, and most cities and states contract with independent private companies that provide ambulance services. There is no standard pricing for ambulance rides so every company can set their own rates. Some cities and states have preferred contractors that they work with whose services are largely covered by private insurance and Medicare and Medicaid. An ambulance cost with insurance in one area could be practically nothing, but it could be expensive someplace else. 

Limited choices for consumers

Another reason why ambulance costs are so high is that consumers don’t really get the chance to shop around. When someone calls 911 in a medical emergency, they don’t have the luxury of time to ask what the ambulance will cost or if it’s in their insurance network so that they avoid getting hit with a huge bill. 

Consumers also don’t get to choose their ambulance service when they are moved between hospitals or taken from one hospital to another for treatment. In an emergency, an ambulance will take someone in distress to the closest hospital. But once that person is stable, they may be moved to another hospital so they can get a higher level of care or specialized care. 

What to do when you get an ambulance bill

If you have a medical emergency and you end up with a large ambulance bill the first thing that you should do is see how much your insurance company will pay. Ambulance insurance coverage depends on different factors that are unique to each insurance company.  In some cases, your insurance company may pay a large portion of that bill. But, if you haven’t yet met your annual deductible cost, you may end up having to pay the entire bill. Most of the time insurance companies won’t start paying for your medical costs and fees, including ambulance rides, until you have paid your full deductible. 

If you need additional help with medical expenses your insurance doesn’t cover, such as ambulance rides and the emergency room visits, accident insurance provides lump-sum cash benefits directly to you, not doctors and hospitals. If you are injured in an accident, you can use this cash to cover any out-of-pocket medical expenses or non-medical expenses like childcare, transportation to a therapist, and even rent or groceries. The benefit amount you receive depends on the diagnosis and severity of your injury, how your injury was treated, and the type of coverage you have.

What is accident insurance?

Accident insurance is supplemental insurance. It’s insurance that you get to fill in the gaps between the other types of insurance that you have. Medical health insurance only pays for costs that are directly related to your care. If you have a medical emergency and need to stay in the hospital for a few days your medical insurance will directly pay the hospital for the tests, X-rays, and other care that you need. But while you are in the hospital you won’t be able to work and your bills can start piling up. Accident insurance pays you a lump sum of money that you can use to pay for additional expenses

There is no deductible with accident insurance. All you pay is a monthly premium in order to keep your coverage current. You can adjust your coverage amounts based on whether you want the insurance plan to only cover you or to cover your entire family. 

Don’t let an unexpected health emergency or something like an ambulance ride put you into debt. Accidents don’t discriminate — anyone can have one at any time. With accident insurance, you can focus on recovery, not your finances. 

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  1., 2017

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.(exp.07/22)