North Texas Daily

Surprise bills reveal why ambulance services should be taken from private sector

Surprise bills reveal why ambulance services should be taken from private sector

Surprise bills reveal why ambulance services should be taken from private sector
February 06
11:25 2021

To better care for our fellow sick and dying Americans during medical emergencies, private ambulance companies should be nationalized and completely free of charge for everyone. The current for-profit only system disproportionately afflicts those who are medically and financially vulnerable. 

In 2017, a foster mother of a son with special needs brought him to a hospital that recommended her son to be relocated to a mental health facility. Following the medical advice, she agreed but later discovered the ambulance ride itself cost $978.57 and was not initially covered under her health insurance. 

Similarly, ABC 10 News interviewed Vietnam War veteran Bill Rose who was charged $1,973.76 for a two-block long ambulance ride when he experienced an excruciating lower back pain he feared was caused by a loosened stent. The Veterans Administration refused to cover the former soldier’s startling ambulance bill. Even after taking an oath to serve his country, the U.S. government failed him. 

These failures also include private air ambulance companies that oftentimes prey on rural communities. In 2019, CBS Evening News reported a story of a father named Joseph Penrod who was charged an unexpected $36,400 for an air ambulance bill. His nine-year-old son had accidentally swallowed multiple prescription pills and poison control recommended the child be air-lifted to a hospital more equipped to handle patients in the young boy’s condition. It is neglectful governing when the transportation of poisoned children to a hospital is not provided from the collective investment Americans contribute in taxes. 

Foster mothers of special needs children, veterans, panicked fathers and every single human being is worthy of quality healthcare and free emergency transportation that does not gouge our personal savings. Instead, the U.S. has an emergency medical service so inherently flawed because of private ambulance companies, that some Americans have turned to taking an Uber to the emergency room. Rideshare programs were never intended to transport someone in a medical emergency, but it does reflect poorly on the high cost of the current system.

The blindsiding nature of ambulance bills is an extension of surprise medical bills in general. Americans deserve nothing but complete honesty, especially regarding medical care. In 2019, Congress banned most surprise medical bills, but omitted ambulance rides. Lawmakers cited the complexities caused by the current U.S. healthcare system made up of entangled layers of private and public insurance plans. 

Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan would resolve the confusing networks entirely through national healthcare. Medicare-for-all also covers ambulance bills outright and would be an improvement in the lives of our country’s most susceptible. 

In doing so also has a historic precedent established from the nationalization of fire departments. Before this, fire brigades only answered calls to insured buildings. This changed during the Industrial Revolution when the factories of big business put urban areas at more of a risk of catching on fire. Then manufacturing cities began to introduce publicly owned and free fire departments. The first was established on April 1, 1853, in Cincinnati. Afterward, the idea expanded across the nation. 

Americans must urge lawmakers that an emergency ambulance ride could be the difference between life and death and should not come with an inexcusable bill. Ensuring that our neighbors can see a doctor — especially in situations where every minute counts — must be a renewed value this country emphatically promotes.

Featured Illustration by Pooja Patel

About Author

Brett Davis

Brett Davis

Columnist on The North Texas Daily's opinion section since 2020. His stories focus on politics and point out hypocrisy. He is a current undergraduate student at UNT majoring in political science and history. Also, he is the vice president of UNT College Democrats and a student relations coordinator for SGA. In 2019, Davis graduated from Central Texas College with an A.A. in interdisciplinary studies.

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