When you or a loved one is seriously injured in a car accident, you should call 9-1-1 to request an ambulance. But often, injured people forgo this step because the rising costs of emergency transport can cause substantial debts later. And should you end up using an ambulance for something that doesn’t require emergency medical attention, expect the cost to be even greater.
If you are in a car accident, In most situations, your health insurance or your car insurance is likely to cover your ambulance bill, though it often depends on whether your trip is considered “medically necessary.” Exactly what is considered medical can vary from insurance plan to insurance plan, but often insurance companies consider an ambulance ride to be medically necessary “when you need care right away, or when you need medical supervision on the way to see a doctor,” as per ValuePenguin. So if you take an ambulance because you broke your arm, and you have no other way to get to a hospital, your insurance is not likely to cover that trip.
Over the years, ambulance rides have gone from costing nothing to costing thousands of dollars. Ambulances are life-saving services that shouldn’t cost someone nearly as much as it does in our modern age. With more and more ambulance services being owned and operated by private companies, it means that those companies can raise the costs as they like because people are never going to not need emergency transportation to the nearest available hospital. This is why, if you were hurt in a wreck and needed medical transport, you should give us a call. Your emergency ambulance costs can become part of your claim against the negligent driver.
The rising cost of ambulance rides in Oklahoma City
In the 1980s, ambulance trips were free. That’s because ambulance services were paid for by the taxpayers, and were operated by volunteers or through the local fire department. Today, ambulances are costly, running you possibly upwards of a few thousand dollars for a single trip, depending on such things as distance and even the services provided by the ambulance (did you require oxygen? CPR?). And if you need an air ambulance for immediate emergency transportation to a hospital because you live too far away from a hospital, or you’re having a medical emergency somewhere ground transportation can’t get to you, then expect to possibly pay somewhere in the five figures range.
In 2020, the No Surprises Act was passed, and it protects patients from surprise bills when visiting out of network hospitals and providers. One of the problems with this is that it does not apply to ground transportation ambulances, so if your insurance does not apply to the network the ambulance comes from, then you will likely see a surprise bill for the ambulance ride. While there are some states that regulate surprise bills from ambulances, there is no federal law that protects patients from the high costs. A reason behind this is because ambulances are not all owned by the same entity, but by multiple entities that vary from state to state, and are funded in many different ways. The entities that own the ambulances include fire departments, hospitals, rescue squads, and private companies; therefore, complicating any attempt at consistent and straightforward regulations.
All this comes to mean that the patient’s insurance is what is responsible for paying the bill for an ambulance ride; and if the patient doesn’t have any insurance, then they must pay out of pocket, which for most people can be financially debilitating. It is difficult to imagine that someone who has just undergone a traumatic and injurious situation such as a car crash (which they very possibly didn’t even cause) has to also suffer financially by paying the hospital for their treatment, a loss of income because their injury makes it impossible for them to work, and for the ambulance that took them there.
What if I have EMSAcare?
Fortunately for us Oklahomans, especially those of us in and around Oklahoma City and Tulsa, there is a very cost effective measure that can significantly lower the costs of a trip in the ambulance. Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) is “Oklahoma’s largest provider of pre-hospital emergency medical care.” EMSAcare is an emergency ambulance subscription program that offers those within their operating regions emergency medical transportation for a minimal monthly price of $3.65 a month (in Oklahoma City – other serviced areas may vary), which can be added to your water bill to make it even easier to pay.
The program covers out of pocket costs for emergency ambulance trips. EMSAcare will also cover “copayments or deductibles for non-emergency ambulance transports approved by members’ insurance/Medicare providers.” The program also provides payment coverage for insured and uninsured patients.
While the program covers everyone within the city limits of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, you may be in trouble if you are injured outside their covered region, which means you will have to rely on your insurance and out-of-pocket costs to pay for your ambulance ride.
Whether you have EMSAcare or not, or were covered or not, you can seek compensation for the costs associated with your ambulance ride. This is because medical transport is considered a medical expense. If another person’s negligence caused the accident and suffered injuries, that other driver can be held liable for costs of your ambulance.
Receiving healthcare and emergency services is complicated, and often expensive. Many mistakes can be made in the billing process through miscommunication between insurance companies, the entities who own the ambulance companies, and any program that you may be a part of. On top of that, if you were not responsible for the car accident that led to you requiring emergency services, someone else’s insurance should cover all of your medical costs.
This is where an experienced and knowledgeable Oklahoma City personal injury lawyer can help. We’ll make sure that you are not billed inappropriately, and that if someone’s negligence caused your accident, they will be held liable for all the costs associated with your injuries. At Cunningham & Mears, we have successfully represented Oklahoma City clients who have been overbilled, and held the responsible party liable for their injuries. To schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer at our Oklahoma City office, please call (405) 232-1212 or complete our contact form.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More