Ambulance Ride Cost

The Cost of an Ambulance Ride

Last Updated on December 27, 2023
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Call 911 for an ambulance and you’re most likely to have another cardiac arrest when you see the costs. Ambulances are not typically free of charge. They cost a lot to keep on the roadway and charge a lot to take you from any point A to a point B. Just how much will you pay? That’s a question nearly nobody is going to be able to answer for you, particularly not the paramedics.

Publicly owned vs. Private

Unlike police and the majority of fire departments, ambulances are almost as frequently privately-owned as they are to be public institutions (like a public fire department or a public health department). No matter whether the ambulance firm that comes to your 911 call is run by the federal government or a financial investment banker, you most likely will not have the ability to know which is which.

Paramedics are the same whether they work for the federal government or not. They don’t care about the costs. They will only care about helping patients and getting people to the correct healthcare centers.

Whether the ambulances are for-profit, non-profit, or publically owned, they’re all going to send you a bill at the end.

You might also like our articles about the cost of Coronavirus treatment, ER visits, and health insurance.

In lots of communities, ambulances are the golden goose that will help fund the other emergency situation services (or are believed to aid financing while not actually helping all that much).

Charges vs. Collections

In the United States, and particularly in the State of Connecticut, the sum that you will be charged for an ambulance ride varies from $0 (for non-billing volunteer services) to $7,000.00+ (for vital care helicopter service with a flight nurse, flight breathing therapist, pilot, mechanic and communication expert).

The amount that you personally will need to pay depends completely on your specific medical insurance protection and monetary circumstance, which amount will vary from $0 to $7,000.00+.

That final bill is going to be quite huge. In the U.S., ambulances charge way more than they collect. It is that way all throughout the nation. The reason ultimately is the collection rate.

The institution owning the ambulance could send 10 bills for $1,500 each. 2 of the bills could be paid completely. Another one will be paid by Medicare at $450. 2 more by Medicaid at $105 each. The rest may go uncollected due to the fact that the patient didn’t have insurance coverage or an address to send out the costs.

When the $3,660 for all of that is gathered and balanced over the 10 ambulance bills, each bill for $1,500 ends up being a collection of $366, about 24.4%, which isn’t all that bad.

It’s not unusual for an ambulance company to gather 10% of its billings, or even worse. That’s not something unique to the business around ambulances – it’s an issue in healthcare in general.

If ambulance businesses aren’t making enough on collections, why won’t they just have the rates go higher? They could, however, just a handful of patients are going to pony up the additional costs.

If you raised the rates 10%, only the commercial insurance providers are going to pay the full costs. So after billing out $1,650 10 times, you’ll gather $1650 two times, $450 for the Medicare call, and $210 for the two Medicaid calls.

Medicare and Medicaid costs are set by the federal government, so they do not truly care just how much you charge. The uninsured clients who blew you off the very first time will still try to ignore the costs when they are 10% higher. And in the end, a 10% rise in costs will get you an additional $300, bringing the average to $396, the same 24%.

A Rather Complicated Billing

Part of what makes this whole situation kind of absurd is the procedure for billing. The rules for billing are pretty much impossible to figure out without very smart accountants. Start with the Medicare Cost Set up released annually by the federal government – what Medicare is going to pay – and add in complex legal “networks” of commercial health insurance providers.

If you ask a medical ambulance biller to describe how the billing is processed, they will most likely be unable to do it in a manner that makes good sense. They can do the billing, but they can’t articulate it too quickly. It’s that complex. Because of that, the paramedic team that comes to your call will not have the ability to tell you the costs even if they wanted to give you this information.

Pretty Pricey to Run

Where does all that money end up, anyhow? Ambulances are expensive. The medic and the Emergency Medical Technician are the most costly parts of the full process.

You do not want to have a paramedic making a minimum wage reacting to your medical emergency situation.

According to a paper released by the General Accounting Office, the medical team comprises about 61% of the operating expense for that ambulance. Fuel, rental of the health center, administrative expenses, upkeep, and materials and supplies comprise the bulk of the rest.

You should add all that to the truth that the ambulance isn’t always running calls. The ambulance could only carry a patient once every 3 hours.

Ambulance supervisors will calculate a number to help them see how effective the ambulance business really is. Divide the full number of transportations by the number of hours each ambulance will stay in service. That’s called a unit hour usage (UHU) and is kind of an ambulance batting average.

Truth be told, a great batting average will be about what a great UHU looks like – something near 0.300 or so. The way to utilize the UHU to see how the ambulance is doing is to increase it by the typical amount that an ambulance trip makes ($366, for our particular example).

So, a UHU of 0.300 increased by a typical ambulance journey of $366 would get you to $122, which is what our imaginary ambulance makes per hour, less than many physicians. Out of that, all of those expenditures need to be paid.

Incentives to Carry

American AmbulanceThe trips or carrying patients are the only things most insurance coverages, including the insurance coverages run by the federal government, will actually pay for. They do not cover merely treating the patients.

A paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) might show up on the scene of a choking patient and carry out the Heimlich maneuver, ultimately saving their life. If the patient is seen as better and not needing a trip to the hospital, the ambulance that just made efforts to save their life does not get a cent.

They can bill for helping her out, and lots of ambulances do that too. However, the truth is, a lot of insurances will not pay it and most ambulance firms will not pursue it. So, when ambulance companies are doing the mathematics to find out just how much cash they’re making (or losing) they hardly ever count in the non-transports.

Along with the fact that carrying someone is the only way to make money, not carrying is the most typical way to get taken legal action against. Leaving a client at the scene of an emergency situation (and even an apparent emergency situation) is the most hazardous action a paramedic can take.

Proof suggests that paramedics aren’t terrific judges of when a client is not that ill. So, there’s a slight possibility they could be wrong if they will not take a person to the hospital and there’s no other way they’re earning money unless they do take them. So which will make more sense, taking or leaving?

What You Can Do

Firstly, if you believe you’re having a medical emergency situation, forget the costs. Go to the hospital and get better. On the other hand, if you didn’t call 911 and you do not believe you’re experiencing a real medical emergency situation, you can always take Uber.

You can always refuse treatment, it is your given right. Do not do it if you’re actually ill, but if you wish to save some money and you do not actually need the ambulance, you should always try to avoid using one.

Alec Pow
2 replies
  1. tom
    tom says:

    you’ve must not have heard of Supreme ambulance. it’s a privatized ambulance service that for a literal 10 minute ride and some oxygen. charged my insurance company almost $10,000. I have full coverage blue cross blue shield and was still stuck with a $2500 bill.

  2. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    Sunday I was taken to the emergency room here in the UK by two highly qualified paramedics in a state of the art ambulance. They took my blood pressure and gave me an ecg before taking me to the hospital. That was totally free for me. Our taxes are only marginally higher than the US. The UK spends half per capita that the US spends on healthcare. I know where our money goes!


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