Based on a recent study, Medicaid recipients in Colorado may find it more affordable to use an ambulance service for an emergency rather than calling a taxicab or hailing a driver from a rideshare app. Uncertainty regarding how to pay for a ride to the hospital, however, should not prevent anyone from obtaining the medical treatment they may need.
With the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, nearly 18 million previously uninsured people from across the U.S. obtained health insurance. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver found that since the ACA expansion, ambulance rides have increased. In New York City alone, where the study’s data was collected, the percentage of patients calling 911 to request an ambulance for a ride to the hospital was up by 37%. Researchers noted, however, that the surge in these ambulance dispatches represented patients receiving care for a non-emergency service. These included minor injuries such as cuts, burns and spraining a muscle.
It is not always possible to predict if an unexpected trip to an emergency-room will get paid for by Medicaid, out-of-pocket cash or a private insurance carrier. Preparing ahead of time for possible emergencies may help prevent families from running into billing issues that might require a battle for reimbursement. In some disputed cases, an uninformed or unprepared patient may find themselves reprimanded by a private insurance company for an uncovered medical transport.
Ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft are noticing an increase in patients using app services to request inexpensive rides to an emergency room. The drivers, however, are not trained emergency response professionals and their vehicles cannot be expected to have life-resuscitating equipment. According to the CU Denver study, some Medicaid patients might decide that the low out-of-pocket responsibility incurred by an ambulance ride is the more affordable emergency medical transport option.