How much does an ambulance cost? It depends who owns it, study finds

Patients are more likely to receive costly surprise bills from privately-owned ambulances than publicly operated services, a study published Jan. 18 in Health Affairs found. 

Surprise bills for privately owned ambulances were, on average, 50 percent higher than those from publicly operated ambulances, the study found. 

These bills were likely to be higher from ambulances owned by private equity or publicly traded companies than ambulances owned by other types of private companies, the study's authors noted. 

The No Surprises Act, which took effect in January 2022, prevents patients from receiving surprise bills for out-of-network services in emergency situations. This bill excludes ambulance transportation. For roughly two-thirds of the ambulance claims, insurers paid the full cost of the bill. 

The study was authored by researchers at the Brookings Institution, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Wake Forest University. Researchers compared data from three major health insurance companies' claims from 2014 to 2017 for emergency and nonemergency ambulance services. 

Read the full study here. 

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