Ambulance bill rip-off: There’s always a public option

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A Kaiser Health News report on air ambulance bills caught my attention; I have long been interested in off-network billing and a more recent experience of a costly ambulance trip.

Taken on a ballad? Ambulances sticking patients with surprise bills is not a new story. To sum up: It is not unusual for a patient to receive a bill of several thousand dollars and get stuck in a lot of the costs, even if that patient is insured. This is because a lot of ambulance companies can earn more money by being off – grid. Unlike doctors and hospitals, ambulance companies do not lose patients by being off-line and refusing to offer discounts. After all, if you need an ambulance, you will not have the time to shop around, and that will not affect repeated business either.

The article quotes an example of Fallon's ambulance in Chestnut Hill, MA, a city far from my home. A patient was transported to Brigham and Women Hospital, four miles away, and charged $ 3,660, which, according to the article, is $ 915 per mile. The insurer was paying about half and half was the patient's responsibility.

In my case, I was crossing the street on a pedestrian crossing and I was struck by a car that was making a left turn. My Fallon bill rose to $ 3,427.50 for a one mile trip, so at least per mile, it was much higher than the Chestnut Hill example.

But to be fair, the bill includes a base fee of $ 3,350 for an advanced survival ambulance plus $ 77.50 per mile. This is exactly the same as the rate paid by the commuter ($ 3,350 + 4 x $ 77.50 = $ 3,660) and demonstrates that Fallon does not primarily charge mileage, but that the equipment and staff are ready to go present at any time.

Much of the anger is directed against the ambulance company for the wrong price and the insurance company to let the patients suspended. There are calls to regulate prices and otherwise tighten the rules, and I'm nice.

But note this point a little lower:

"If the injury had occurred a mile and a half from the city of Boston, he could have mounted an ambulance in the city, which would have cost $ 1,490, according to Boston EMS, sum that his insurer would probably have covered. "

When you call 911 to report a fire or a crime in Chestnut Hill and elsewhere near Boston, firefighters and police are sent free of charge. No matter what insurance you have – or if you have insurance – it's a service provided by the local government as part of its budget. The police and the firefighters also reacted to my accident, but they do not send a bill.

Cities and villages could do the same with ambulances if they want to. Some, like Boston, do it. Public ambulances can still charge insurance and patients, but they are less likely to upset patients and insurers with exorbitant bills.

While we think of political solutions for the scams of ambulance bills, let us not forget that there are also public options and many hybrid solutions .

By a Medical Affairs Consultant David E. Williams President of Health Business Group .

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