When An Ambulance Is Really A $160 Per Mile Taxi

No one questions the life-saving service that ambulances provide, or the expense of keeping teams of life-saving professionals on call 24 hours a day. One Tennessee man was horrified when he paid almost $800 for an ambulance to fetch him from his third-floor apartment and take him to the hospital when he hurt his back. He didn’t need life support: he would have done just fine with an elevator and a taxi.

“If I’d have known it would cost that much, I would have crawled to the hospital,” he grumbled to consumer reporter Bob Sullivan. Or driven himself: once paramedics got him downstairs, he felt well enough to drive himself, but chose to ride in the ambulance as long as it was there. “It’s not a big deal,” one of the paramedics assured him. It is, however, a big bill.

The ambulance ride didn’t really cost $160 per mile. The real itemized cost was $8.73 per mile, but there’s a flat $755 fee that provider Rural/Metro charges in that area, no matter how long the trip is. One thing that you should check after receiving an outrageous ambulance bill is whether town residents have to pay for the taxpayer-funded service if their insurance doesn’t cover it. That doesn’t work in this patient’s case, though: Rural/Metro is a publicly traded company.

Gotcha! Why a 5-mile ambulance ride costs $800 — or more [Bob Sullivan]