Gov. Newsom signs law to prohibit surprise ambulance bills

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Sunday to protect Californians against surprise ground ambulance bills. Assembly Bill 716, by state Assemblymember Boerner, will close a glaring gap in the federal No Surprises Act, which limits how much money most out-of-network medical providers — except ground ambulances — can charge patients. 

Often, when patients call 911, they have no control over which ground ambulance company takes them to the hospital. About half of emergency ambulance patients with insurance are at risk of receiving a surprise medical bill, which is an out-of-network charge for those transportation services. Ground ambulances have the highest out-of-network billing rate of any medical specialty in the country, and California has one of the highest median surprise bills for ambulances at $1,209. 

CALPIRG State Director Jenn Engstrom responded to the governor’s signature with the following statement:

Surprise medical bills are a failure of the health care system. Too often, patients are charged exorbitantly high prices by providers who the patients didn’t know were out-of-network. No one in a medical emergency should hesitate to call 911 for fear of a large ambulance bill, and they definitely don’t have time to consult a network directory to make sure the ambulance they call is covered by their health plan. 

“Thanks to this legislative action, when it comes to surprise ambulance bills, Californians will soon make sure that protecting their physical health isn’t so detrimental to their financial health. We thank Assemblymember Boerner for her leadership on this issue and Governor Newsom for signing this critical legislation into law.”