Surprise ambulance bills can cost you thousands. Here’s what’s being done to change that

ATLANTA — It’s the last thing you want to be thinking about in a medical emergency -- what is this going to cost?

But if an ambulance ride is necessary, even if it’s just a couple of miles, it could cost you thousands of dollars.

Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray learned that ambulance rides were intentionally exempt from the surprise billing law that Congress passed in 2021.

Out-of-network insurance charges from ground ambulance rides can run thousands of dollars.

Gray learned that 50% of all ambulance rides end up with an out-of-network bill.


“I just had one of those bad moments that you hope never happens,” said Sherri Feliccia, who ended up getting T-boned by a car at a Duluth intersection. “I was in my car upside down and I heard sirens.”

Jennifer Page had an extreme allergic reaction and had to use her EpiPen.

“Basically, I couldn’t breathe,” Page said.

Chris Quinn was having heart trouble.

“It was an emergency. I don’t really have a choice as to who comes and picks me up in an ambulance,” Quinn said.

Regardless of the type of medical emergency, when you call 911, you need immediate help -- fast. You aren’t thinking about the bill.

“Am I supposed to ask 911 if they’re covered under my insurance company? Because I couldn’t breathe,” Page said.


What each of these people later learned is that the help they received came with a big cost their insurance did not pay.

“It says this claim is not a covered service by your insurance,” Feliccia said.

“They said I owed them over $3,000 because whatever the insurance company didn’t pay, I would have to pay,” Page said.

“I mean, I probably could have taken an Uber to Los Angeles cheaper,” Quinn said.

Quinn Google-mapped his ambulance ride. it was less than 3 miles.

Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency charged Felicia a flat $975 fee, plus $15 a mile and said they don’t accept any insurance.

“I feel more traumatized by dealing with the medical bills than the actual accident, believe it or not,” Quinn said.

It was exactly that kind of medical bill stress the No Surprises Act that became law in 2022 was designed by Congress to solve.

But it carved out one service -- you have no control over ground ambulance rides that were not included in the new protections, essentially deeming the problem too complicated to solve.

“I mean, am I supposed to ask 911 to, ‘Hey, here’s my insurance information. Make sure that you send somebody who’s in-network for me to come pick me up,’” Quinn said.

As part of the No Surprises Act, Congress created a ground ambulance and patient billing advisory committee to develop a recommendation on how to fix ambulance surprise bills.

“We’ve come up with consensus recommendations, and it’s time for Congress to act,” said Patricia Kelmar, who serves on that committee that includes representatives from insurance and ambulance companies.

The committee came up with a plan late last year to cap the price you pay for an ambulance ride out of pocket.

“The advisory committee made a recommendation that people should only pay about $100 out of pocket for any emergency transportation that they need,” Kelmar said.

That’s a fraction of the price most out-of-network rides currently cost.

“I get bills every month, without fail from them. You got to pay,” Page said.

Page told Gray that has left her in a place where she said she will have to make a difficult decision if there’s a future allergic reaction.

“That’s basically what I’ve told my aunt. If I have to do this again, don’t call an ambulance. We’ll just risk. driving to the hospital ourselves, because I can’t deal with it,” Page said.

“That could put your life at risk,” Gray asked Page.

“It could. I know it could. But what else am I supposed to do?” Page said.

That advisory committee expects to make its formal recommendation to Congress this spring.

Remember Congress asked them for this, but Georgia does not have to wait on Congress. Fourteen states have put in protections into state law to ban surprise ambulance bills.