How Much Does an Ambulance Ride Cost Without Insurance?
Without insurance, the average cost of an ambulance ride is around $1200. However, factors like ground mileage and severity of services affect the final prices of ambulance services. Ambulance rides are not protected under the No Surprises Act, which aims to reduce surprise medical billing. Given the high and unpredictable cost of ambulance services, patients need to understand the factors contributing to cost.
Costs of ambulance services without insurance
Fair Health's recent report shows that the price of an ambulance before insurance has risen 22.6 percent — to about $1,277 —from 2017 to 2020.
Rising Cost of Ambulance Services:
Basic life support (BLS), also called “first-step treatment,” are services that can be provided by either a paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT). These services are for patients who do not need cardiac monitoring or respiratory interventions.
A paramedic must provide advanced life support (ALS). ALS services are more invasive and require procedures with needles or other devices that make cuts in the skin, requiring the paramedic to have a higher level of training than an EMT. ALS ambulances typically have airway equipment, cardiac life support, cardiac monitors, and glucose monitors on board.
Ambulance services can be provided by local governments, hospitals, or private non-hospital ambulance companies. Still, due to emergency services, patients cannot choose their providers. As soon as the dispatch center receives a call for an ambulance, the patient’s location is pinpointed based on their phone number. Based on the patient’s location, the closest available ambulance will be dispatched.
The nearest ambulance may be provided, either ALS or BLS. This inability to choose often leads to patients receiving surprising and unexpectedly high bills for ambulance services. However, some ambulance providers offer payment plans or financial assistance. To avoid medical debt, inquire about the different payment options available.
Factors that affect the cost of ambulance services
The final costs of ambulance services depend on multiple factors. Providers bill ambulance services according to the following procedure codes:
|A0427||Ambulance service, advanced life support, emergency transport, level 1 (ALS 1-emergency)|
|A0429||Ambulance service, basic life support, emergency transport (BLS- emergency)|
|A0433||Advanced life support, level 2 (ALS 2)|
|A0380||BLS mileage (per mile)|
|A0390||ALS mileage (per mile)|
|A0425||Ground mileage, per statute mile|
Each procedure code identifies what service was provided to the patient and has different costs.
Billing based on mileage charges a rate per mile traveled in the ambulance. The rate per mile varies across different states and cities. The top 5 states with the highest mileage are:
- Arkansas—27.9 miles
- North Dakota—27.0 miles
- Wyoming—24.5 miles
- West Virginia—21.6 miles
- Maine—20.9 miles.
Ambulance costs may be higher in these states than in states with highly populated metropolitan areas, where ambulance mileage is considerably lower. Providers claim that the costs of 24/7 staffing, limited insurance reimbursements, and expensive equipment drive high consumer costs.
Get Mira - Health Benefits You Can Afford.
Get doctor visits, lab tests, prescription, and more. Affordable copays. Available in 45+ states. Only $45/month on average.
Cost of an Ambulance Ride without Insurance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When considering the cost of an ambulance ride and your health/safety, consider the following.
When is it safe for you to drive yourself to the ER?
Given ambulance services' high, unpredictable costs, driving yourself or a loved one to the emergency room may seem more cost-efficient. This may be a better option for non-emergencies. If you have a minor cut or sprain, driving yourself or a loved one to an urgent care center instead of an emergency room will be more affordable and efficient.
However, if you are experiencing dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains, or any symptoms that may affect your motor and judgment skills, it is best to trust ambulance staff to provide the necessary care.
You can call your doctor or nurse's advice line if you are unsure what to do. Nevertheless, if your symptoms are severe, contact 911.
When should I call an ambulance?
Given the unexpected costs that come with ambulance services, determining whether or not you should call an ambulance before you call one would be wise. Call the ambulance when:
- A person is showing signs of a heart attack or stroke. Symptoms include chest pain, difficulty breathing, and sudden change in mental state. These conditions require immediate attention.
- Moving the patient would lead to more damage to the patient. EMTs are trained to move patients without inflicting additional trauma.
- You are not in a condition to operate a motor vehicle.
If you are unsure if you need to call an ambulance, call 911, and they will assist you directly.
Virtual care for only $25 per visit
Virtual primary care, urgent care, and behavioral health visits are only $25 with a Mira membership.
What is the difference between an emergency room and an urgent care center?
You should only use emergency rooms for life-threatening medical emergencies. Going to an urgent care center is the best decision if you do not require immediate medical attention. Patients go to urgent care when faced with serious but non-life-threatening medical issues. These include persistent fever, sprains, minor bone breaks, or stomach-related illnesses.
Are there other factors that affect the price of ambulance services?
Other factors that can affect the price of ambulance services for uninsured patients include:
- Who owns your ambulance provider - is it for-profit, nonprofit, or government owned?
- If the transport was emergency or non-emergency. Emergency services are those which require immediate intervention, while non-emergency services can
- How many EMTs, firefighters, and paramedics provided services to you
- How many and what kind of supplies were used? Medications, cardiac intervention equipment, and basic supplies such as needles, scalpels, or gauze contribute to the final cost.
What happens if you decline ambulance services after a car crash?
Minor car crashes can result in police, fire trucks, and ambulances arriving at the scene. You have the right to refuse ambulance services as long as you are a competent adult. Ambulance staff may evaluate for injuries that are not visible, such as brain injuries or internal bleeding. They may also take your blood pressure and heart rate to assess whether or not you can drive on your own. If you have an evaluation or consult with the ambulance crew, you may receive a bill; however, you can appeal the charges if you feel the cost was unreasonable.
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, allow the ambulance staff to evaluate you.
- Shortness of breath
- Suspected broken bones
- Uncontrollable bleeding from lacerations
The average cost of ambulance services is around $1200. Still, the final cost can depend on many factors, such as the severity of care provided, mileage, the number of ambulance staff treating you, and the type of supplies used. Because ambulance services are not covered under the No Surprises Act in all states, patients should assess whether or not ambulance services are essential and determine if the care needed would be better provided in an urgent care center or an emergency room.
Mira does not cover ambulance services, but it offers a multitude of preventive care services that may decrease your chances of needing ambulance services! For as low as $25 a month, Mira members have access to unlimited primary care appointments and up to 80 percent discount on over 1000 prescription medications. Sign up today to start saving on prescriptions, bloodwork, primary care, and much more!
Shandra is a junior at Yale University, where she is studying biomedical engineering. Before joining Mira, Shandra wrote in the science and technology column of a local newspaper. Additionally, she has experience writing healthcare policy, covering topics such as the American Rescue Plan Act, abortion rights, and expansion of Medicare eligibility.