High ambulance costs surprise families in times of need
by ANNE THOMPSON
March 6, 2018
Dave Ross’ teenage son, Dave Jr., had sharp chest pains, and his doctor feared a punctured lung. So when the doctor ordered an ambulance to take Dave Jr. to the hospital, a worried Ross readily agreed. All he thought about was getting help for his son, and fast.
The pain turned out to be a pulled muscle, and Ross, who lives in Framingham, Massachusetts, was relieved. But his gratitude turned to shock when he got an ambulance bill for $2,400, for a ride of less than two miles.
Ross then learned what an increasing number of Americans are finding out: Their town ambulance services, once financed by local taxes, are a thing of the past.
It turned out that the ambulance service Ross used is run not by the city of Framingham, but by a private company, American Medical Response. Many cities trying to cut costs, and save taxpayers money — especially after the recession of 2008 — have contracted with private companies.
For-profit ambulance companies are a growth business, said Betsy Imholz, special projects director at Consumers Union, where ambulance services account for a quarter of the complaints about surprise medical bills. Privatizing ambulance services might save towns money, but consumers are caught in the middle, Imholz said.