I Can’t Pay My Ambulance Bill – What Should I Do?

Getting hit with a huge ambulance bill that you can’t afford to pay can be an incredibly stressful and scary situation. As someone who has been through this, I wanted to share my story and provide some suggestions on what to do if you find yourself with an ambulance bill that you can’t pay.

It happened to me a few years ago. I had a bad fall and broke my leg. I was in severe pain, so I called 911 for an ambulance to take me to the emergency room. The paramedics arrived quickly, stabilized my leg, loaded me into the ambulance, and off we went.

At the time, I was uninsured. I knew the hospital bills would be expensive, but I figured I’d deal with that later. What I didn’t expect was the huge bill from the ambulance company that arrived a few weeks later – $1,200!

There was no way I could afford to pay that. I was a graduate student at the time barely scraping by on a tiny stipend. Coming up with $1200 was simply impossible for me. So I ignored the bill, hoping it would just go away. Of course, it didn’t.

The ambulance company kept sending more bills, then collections notices. The amount owed kept getting bigger with late fees. I was so stressed out that I started to get sick from worry. I lost sleep over this ambulance bill that I had no way to pay.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many people have found themselves stuck with an ambulance bill they simply can’t afford. Ambulance companies often don’t participate in insurance networks. So even if you have health insurance you can still get hit with a huge out-of-network charge.

If you’re in this situation, don’t just ignore it and hope it goes away. Here are some steps you can take:

Negotiate with the Ambulance Company

Don’t assume the amount they are charging is set in stone. Ambulance companies often inflate their prices, knowing that insurance companies will haggle with them. You can negotiate too.

Call the billing department, explain your financial situation, and ask for a reduced rate or payment plan. Many ambulance companies would rather get paid something than have to turn the debt over to collections.

Apply for Charity Care

Most hospitals and ambulance companies have charity care programs for low income patients. Ask the ambulance company for a charity care application. If you qualify based on your income, they may reduce or even wipe out your bill.

Set Up a Payment Plan

If the ambulance company won’t reduce the amount owed, ask to set up a monthly payment plan that works with your budget. They would much rather get consistent payments over time than no payment at all. Make sure it’s an amount you can really afford.

Call Your Insurance Company

Even if the ambulance company was out-of-network, your insurance may still cover a portion of the bill. Contact your insurer and ask them to reprocess the claim. Push them to cover more of the cost.

Dispute Errors on Your Bill

Carefully examine the ambulance bill for any errors. Were you charged for services you didn’t receive? Is the mileage charged accurate? Dispute any discrepancies in writing.

Hire a Medical Billing Advocate

For a fee, medical billing advocates can negotiate on your behalf to lower ambulance bills and correct billing errors. This can be worthwhile if the bill is very large.

Ask About Financial Assistance

If the ambulance trip was for an emergency, the hospital you were transported to may have funds available to help cover ambulance costs for low-income patients. Ask about this.

Consult a Lawyer

There are legal professionals who specialize in disputing medical bills. They know all the rules and regulations. Consulting one may help reduce your ambulance bill.

File for Bankruptcy

As a last resort, including the ambulance debt in a personal bankruptcy filing could eliminate what you owe. This badly damages your credit, but it’s an option if you have no way to pay.

Getting stuck with an unaffordable ambulance bill can be incredibly stressful. But don’t stick your head in the sand. Take action to try to reduce what you owe. With persistence and creativity, you can hopefully lower your bill to an amount you can realistically pay off.

The key is to be proactive. Call the ambulance company right away. Open a dialogue with them. Most importantly, don’t ignore the bill. That will only make things worse in the long run. Dealing with the ambulance company directly, explaining your financial situation, and negotiating a compromise will hopefully lead to a positive resolution.

Can’T Pay Ambulance Bill

The official fine and fee discount guide from The Financial Justice Project, housed in the San Francisco Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector

Ambulance iconIf the San Francisco Fire Department provided you emergency medical services, you may be able to waive your bill through the Financial Hardship Program.Click below to learn how to apply!

Step 1: Confirm that you are eligible

You are eligible for the San Francisco Fire Department’s Financial Hardship Program if you:

have an income at or less than 300% of the Federal Poverty Level ($45,180 for a single person and $93,600 for a four person household for 2024)

How to fight surprise ambulance bills

Should ambulance bills be included in the No Surprises Act?

The No Surprises Act, recently passed by Congress to protect patients in emergency situations from being billed for out-of-network services they didn’t agree to, does not regulate ambulance bills directly. However, it has directed a committee to study the issue and make recommendations.

Do Ambulance Companies Bill out-of-network charges?

When people dial 911, perhaps the last thing they think about is how much the ambulance ride will cost. But a report released Tuesday by U.S. PIRG Education Trust shows ambulance companies routinely bill out-of-network charges. This happens when an insurance plan’s network doesn’t include the public or private ambulance company.

How do I avoid ambulance bills?

File a complaint with your state insurance commissioner’s office, state attorney general’s office or the Better Business Bureau. Ask a consumer advocacy group to help you negotiate down the bill. Q: Can I avoid these bills ahead of time? Possibly, if it’s not an emergency. First, ask your insurance company: Which ambulance companies are in-network?

What happens if an ambulance doesn’t take a person to the hospital?

If an ambulance is called and doesn’t take someone to the hospital, an insurer typically won’t reimburse the ambulance provider. Lawrence estimates that about 25 percent of ambulance calls don’t result in a hospitalization. The pandemic has exacerbated the ambulance industry’s financial problems.

Leave a Comment