By Laura Ungar
- “School librarian Amanda Brasfield bent over to grab her lunch from a small refrigerator and felt her heart begin to race. Even after lying on her office floor and closing her eyes, her heart kept pounding and fluttering in her chest. The school nurse checked Brasfield’s pulse, found it too fast to count and called 911 for an ambulance. Soon after the May 2018 incident, Brasfield, now 39, got a $1,206 bill for the 4-mile ambulance ride across the northwestern Ohio city of Findlay — more than $300 a mile. And she was on the hook for $859 of it because the only emergency medical service in the city has no contract with the insurance plan she has through her government job.”
- “Fair Health, a nonprofit that analyzes billions of medical claims, estimates an ambulance ride costs $408 in-network and $750 out-of-network in Toledo, which is about 50 miles away from Findlay and has several ambulance companies. Even the higher of those two costs is $456 less than Brasfield’s bill.”
- “Brasfield’s predicament is common in the U.S. health care market, where studies show the majority of ambulance rides leave patients saddled with hundreds of dollars in out-of-network medical bills. Yet ground ambulances have mostly been left out of federal legislation targeting ‘surprise’ medical bills, which happen when out-of-network providers charge more than insurers are willing to pay, leaving patients with the balance.”
- “A Health Affairs study, published in April, found 71% of all ambulance rides in 2013-17 for members of one large, national insurance plan involved potential surprise bills. The median out-of-network surprise ground ambulance bill was $450, for a combined impact of $129 million a year. And a study published last summer in JAMA Internal Medicine found 86% of ambulance rides to ERs — the vast majority by ground ambulances, not helicopters — resulted in out-of-network bills.
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