If you have a medical emergency, you are usually not thinking too hard about medical costs and billing when calling 911. For most people, they are assured that their insurance or whatever health plan they are on will cover those bills.
However, what do you do when you find yourself with surprise medical bills such as exorbitant ambulance bills and you find yourself unable to pay them? That is what this article is for. This article will delve into how you can deal with such bills.
We will be going over what surprise medical bills are, what legal protections you have for them, and what to do when faced with high ambulance bills that you have to pay out of pocket.
What are surprise medical bills?
As a person with health insurance or a health plan, you are usually not too concerned about medical bills. This is because your insurance provider covers these fees. However, there are situations where you are treated by an out-of-network facility or provider.
These are when surprise medical bills come up. When you have to deal with medical bills from out-of-network facilities or providers that aren’t taken care of by your insurance provider, it can deal a huge blow to you. Sometimes, these fees are too high to be paid out of pocket.
Out of all the surprise medical bills people have been faced with, a good percentage of them are ambulance fees. Many ambulance companies end up serving up high bills to patients that are unable to pay or didn’t plan for such billing.
Surprise medical bills can come as a full bill from the out-of-network provider. Surprise bills can also come as something called “balance bills.” This is when a patient’s insurance provider pays what they can of the surprise medical bill and the patient has to pay off the balance. Balance billing is one of the most common ways that people get saddled with surprise bills.
For people with Medicare and Medicaid, there is protection against surprise billing included in their health plan. For people who don’t use these services, there are other options for this. That is the No Surprises Act.
How to get protected from surprise medical fees
The No Surprises Act is a bill proposed by the federal government to protect patients who have health insurance plans from having to deal with surprise billing. The Act ensures that bills raised for both emergency and non-emergency services are covered.
The purpose of the No Surprises Act is to ensure that patients don’t suffer the financial burdens of working with out of network providers at in-network facilities. In some situations, patients may even end up being taken to out of network facilities by those providers.
The Act works by setting up a dispute resolution process for disputes of payment between a health plan and an out of network provider. The Act also helps out people who are uninsured or who pay their medical bills out of pocket.
The stipulations of the No Surprises Act state that an uninsured person or someone who isn’t using insurance at the moment is entitled to a good faith estimate of the cost of medical services upfront. If the final bill far surpasses this estimate, there are dispute resolution systems in place for such people to pursue.
This allows people to access healthcare without worrying whether they have the backing of an insurance company or not. While the benefits of insurance cannot be overstated, that doesn’t mean that people without it shouldn’t be able to claim affordable healthcare too.
The No Surprises Act is a great step in healthcare and all people should be made aware of it. Unfortunately, it does not protect people against ground ambulance costs. This is mostly due to the diversity in ownership of ambulance services.
This leads to an overly complex situation that makes it difficult for the government to work with these companies to prevent surprise billing for patients. Ambulance agencies are owned and operated by dozens of types of institutions and function in ways that are too varied.
The reason why ambulance bills are high
There are a few reasons why ambulances charge so highly for their services. All the different reasons often come together to result in a high price that most people are shocked by and have to pay out of pocket.
The first reason is that ambulance companies and insurance companies can often not agree on a fair rate for the human services provided by the ambulance. Because of this disagreement, most privately owned ambulance services are not registered in the network of an insurance company.
This alone poses a problem for people on health insurance or who have their health plan paid for because they will have to pay out of pocket for the ambulance ride. With this factor in mind, the method of charging that ambulance providers use is also a problem.
Ambulance charges are often set at a price per mile that users have to pay. This racks up the cost of the ambulance a lot. If the base rate is very high, even a short trip of a few miles can result in thousands of dollars in bills.
Many ambulances also charge patients for the services provided by their team and tools. This can include administering oxygen or any other drugs or amenities or providing services like CPR or emergency first aid.
With all these factors in place, ambulance fees end up being too high and costing people money that they cannot spare. Whether an ambulance picks someone up at the site of their emergency or transfers them from one hospital to another, its charges still fall on the patient.
What do you do when you can’t pay your ambulance bill?
If you are faced with an unexpected ambulance bill, you don’t have to immediately panic. There are a few options you can pursue to deal with the bill. These include contacting your insurer and contacting the ambulance service.
Contact your insurer
The first thing you should do is contact your insurer and ask if they can review the claim. This option can end up yield surprising results as your insurer may agree to cover more of the costs. In many cases, your insurance company wants to help.
Though balance billing can be a problem, if you are the one to reach out to your insurance provider, they may agree to cover a portion of the ambulance fee with you paying for the rest. This is a method of balance billing where you agree.
Even though most ambulance companies are not included in insurance plans, reviewing a claim may lead to your insurer realizing or deciding that they should pay a portion of the ambulance bill or even the full bill.
Contact the ambulance service
Another valid option when you are faced with high ambulance bills is contacting the ambulance service itself. This should be done after you have already reached out to your health plan provider and they don’t pay.
When you reach out to the ambulance company, there are two options you should be asking for. These are either for the cost of the ambulance bill to be lowered or for a payment plan to be established for you.
Some ambulance companies may decide to lower the charge of the ride, especially if you provide a compelling argument as to why. This may be because the trip wasn’t too long or you didn’t make use of too many of their additional services.
Alternatively, the company can establish a payment plan for you so that you can pay off the bill in installments. While this option isn’t the most appealing, sometimes it may be a person’s best bet to not end up in debt.
With a good payment plan, you can pay off a small amount of the bill monthly and avoid paying off one lump sum.
What happens if I don’t pay my ambulance bills?
The simple answer to this is that you end up in debt. This is not an ideal situation, so it is best to take up your concerns with one of the two options mentioned above. With those, you have a chance of the debt being paid off.
If you owe an ambulance company or other out of network providers, you may end up accumulating debt worth thousands of dollars that you will ultimately have to pay. If it is brought to the notice of these services that you are deep in debt, that may cause more problems for you since you are legally in the wrong.
While the state law in some places includes surprise billing laws, the No Surprises Act serves to supplement these laws. This means that the No Surprise Act can be applied in addition to the already existing state laws.
Ambulance fees can be a real problem for many people, but this article has broken down all that goes into these fees and how they can be worked around. If you are faced with a high ambulance bill, now you know what to do.