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EMT Working Group Discusses Balance Billing, Ambulance Costs

Credit US Navy via wikimedia commons

Complaints from Floridians hit with surprise bills after a ride in an ambulance have the state’s insurance consumer advocate looking for answers.  First responders are pointing at insurers.

Balance billing allows emergency service providers to bill patients if their insurance doesn’t fully cover the cost of treatment.  Stuart Fire chief David Dyal says ambulance services are expensive—but not unreasonable. 

“It’s apparent that the insurer is not picking up their part of the bill,” Dyal says.  “Someone gets billed $936.50—they’re paying $1,800 a month for insurance and the insurer wants to pay 84 bucks?”

“That’s not even realistic.”

The story comes from an individual introduced as ‘Consumer A’ by Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Sha’Ron James at an EMT working group. 

Plant City Fire Rescue Chief Dan Azzariti says when insurers pay so little the difference eventually comes out of local coffers.

“If a patient doesn’t pay the bill or the insurance company in most cases refuses to pay the bill or pays only a very, very small percentage, that is shifted over to the taxpayers,” Azzariti says.

Azzariti explains the majority of 9-1-1 responders are housed in public agencies like the fire department.  Without balance billing, he and other chiefs say local governments could face the difficult choice or raising millage rates or cutting services.

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