Public outrage over surprise medical bills has prompted some states to pass laws protecting consumers. But such laws largely ignore ground ambulance rides, which can leave patients with up to thousands owed in medical bills and few options for recourse, according to a Kaiser Health News review of hundreds of consumer complaints in 32 states.
Patients are often vulnerable because 911 dispatchers pick the ambulance crews, which then pick the hospitals. The sticker shock comes after patients are taken to hospitals out of their insurance network or when the ambulance service itself hasn't joined an insurance network.
Forty years ago most ambulances were free. Now many are run by private companies and venture capital firms.
According to the advocacy group Consumers Union, at least a quarter of their 700 patient reports about surprise medical bills involve ambulances.