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If you're in a car accident that requires serious medical attention, there's a good chance you'll be transported to a hospital in an ambulance—and ambulance rides are not free. Fortunately, there are several different kinds of insurance that may cover your ambulance bill after a car accident, but not all of them will apply in every situation. What's more, some are optional coverages—that is, they'll only help pay your bills if you opted to purchase them when you signed up for auto insurance. So you'll have to work with your car insurance company to determine which of your insurance coverages will cover ambulance transport.
Ambulances are Covered When Medically Necessary
In general, insurance will cover the cost of an ambulance ride when it's "medically necessary." In those cases, insurance companies will consider the cost of an ambulance ride in the same manner as any other medical expense after a car accident. An ambulance ride is medically necessary when you need care right away, or when you need medical supervision on the way to see a doctor. For example, transportation would be medically necessary for a concussion or spinal injury but not for minor scrapes and bruises. Unfortunately, a lack of other transportation is not considered sufficient justification; just because your car is undriveable doesn't mean you'll receive a free ride to the doctor in an ambulance. Of course, it's better to play it safe and take an ambulance if you think you are seriously hurt, so don't refuse one if you're injured.
What Types of Car Insurance Cover Ambulance Rides?
After you're in a car accident, many types of car insurance can contribute to paying the cost of your ambulance ride. But not all types of car insurance coverage will apply in every situation, and they aren't all available in every state.
Types of car insurance that can cover ambulance rides include:
- Personal Injury Protection: If you live in a no-fault state, your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage will pay for your medical bills—including ambulance costs—regardless of who caused the accident.
- Medical Payments: Medical Payments is an optional coverage that will cover ambulance rides, just like personal injury protection. It is offered in states where PIP is not required or as a supplement to mandatory PIP coverage.
- The Other Driver's Liability Coverage for Bodily Injury: If the other driver was deemed to be at fault in the accident, their bodily injury liability coverage will pay for your ambulance ride and other medical expenses.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage for Bodily Injury: If the other driver was at fault and doesn't have liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage will pay for the costs of your ambulance. Likewise, underinsured motorist coverage goes into effect if the at-fault driver's coverage limit isn't high enough to pay all of your medical bills. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages are optional in some states, but required in others.
The different types of coverage often overlap with one another. For example, imagine you have $10,000 in PIP coverage and $100,000 in coverage for uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage. if you're in a serious accident with an uninsured driver and get a $15,000 medical bill, you can use $10,000 of PIP, and the remainder will be paid by your UMBI. Contrast this with collision and comprehensive coverages: In a typical car accident, only one or the other will apply to you.
Health Insurance Can Cover Ambulance Expenses
If no types of car insurance apply to your particular incident, or you exhaust the coverage limits of those that do apply, your health insurance may help cover the cost of riding in an ambulance. But, depending on the details of your health insurance policy, you may be responsible for part of the cost, especially if you have not yet met your annual health insurance deductible. Car insurance covering medical expenses, on the other hand, typically doesn't have a deductible, so you should exhaust those allotments first, if you can.
Who Pays For Ambulance Rides First?
When there are multiple types of insurance providing overlapping coverage, who should pay first: your own car insurance, the other driver's policy, or your health insurance? The exact order, or "priority," in which different types of insurance will kick in to cover your ambulance bill can be complex. Our list above is in the approximate order the different coverages will go into effect. However, the exact order will vary according to several factors, including the laws in your state, the types of insurance you have, and the rules laid out in your automobile and health insurance policies.
The only way to determine the exact priority of payment for your situation is to consult with your own automobile and health insurance providers, as well as the other driver's insurer, if applicable.
The Cost of Riding in an Ambulance
Riding in an ambulance has a high and unfortunately extremely variable cost to it. The price before insurance can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, and it's very difficult to predict how much the bill will be until you get it. Plus, ambulances are usually dispatched by proximity, so the one that is closest may not be the one that is cheapest. Factors that can influence the cost of your ambulance bill include:
- Where you live
- Whether you ride in an ambulance owned by a nonprofit or for-profit organization
- Whether you have health insurance
- What type of services you receive—someone receiving life support may pay more than someone with a broken leg
- What type of services the paramedics are able to provide, even if they don't actually provide them
The distance you travel in an ambulance makes up a surprisingly small portion of the total bill.
Adults do have the option to refuse transportation in an ambulance, if they are conscious. If you are not seriously injured and believe you can transport yourself to the doctor safely, you may consider turning down the ambulance ride.
There is generally no charge to receive onsite medical care from emergency medical technicians (EMTs), though, so there's no reason not to let an EMT check you out for injuries before you leave the scene of your accident.