Home Emergency Management News The Ambulance Bill Conundrum: Balancing High Costs and Community Healthcare Needs

The Ambulance Bill Conundrum: Balancing High Costs and Community Healthcare Needs


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

For years, Americans have complained about healthcare bills because they’re often shockingly high and don’t always make sense. Not only is it frustrating trying to understand a lengthy bill filled with confusing code numbers and explanations, it’s particularly worrying for patients trying to figure out how they’re going to pay it.

Numerous laws are on the books to relieve some of the financial pressure associated with healthcare bills. However, the stress for patients remains constant.

The unfortunate reality is that ambulance bills are no different from medical bills. They can be expensive to pay and complicated to understand. A high bill may feel unjustified to a patient who has had a medical emergency.

Ambulance bills are often the result of numerous factors that affect the ambulance company’s resources and budget. Ambulance bills are also often affected by local government budgets.

Furthermore, ambulance services have to live with government budget cuts and still maintain their services. That complicates the overall costs associated with emergency medical services.

Ambulance Bills Can Be Shockingly High, Even Without a Hospital Stay

KMOV-TV in St. Louis recently aired the story of a local man who was charged $310 for not using an ambulance. He was on oxygen and when he fell in his home, he couldn’t get up.

Paramedics responded to his daughter’s call, helped the man to his feet and restored his oxygen supply. Three weeks later, the man received a bill for “partial trans no-go.”

This event was not an isolated incident. Patients often receive bills for similar services with the fees based on how the ambulance company structures its charges and budgets.

Balancing Ambulance Resources While Keeping Healthcare Costs Low Is Difficult

In reality, using an ambulance for any services can be costly. An actual emergency occurring while an EMS crew responded to the daughter’s call for help could have strained resources and made it difficult for first responders to effectively manage multiple 911 calls simultaneously.

As individual who calls 911 requesting emergency assistance without the intention of being transported to a hospital is still responsible for paying for the services. This fact is often hard for patients to accept, especially when they receive such a large bill for what appears to have been such a small service.

Patients should voice their concerns to their elected officials. In that way, community residents can help government officials to better understand the healthcare needs of the community and make better budgetary decisions about emergency services.

It’s also important for citizens to work with their elected officials to balance ambulance budgets and the costs of responding to an emergency. Such cooperation might  lead to an increase in EMS funding, which in turn would benefit the entire community.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.