High Value Health Care

Ambulance surprise billing protections coming to Washington?

Washington might become the 16th state to protect patients from ambulance surprise bills.

Health care

Legislative hearing featuring Committee chair person and youn g mom
Christy Shum testifies about the $6,000 ambulance surprise bill

PIRG testified in support of proposed state legislation to protect patients in Washington state from out-of-network ambulance surprise billing on Friday, Jan 9, 2024. The bill passed out of committee with a unanimous voice vote today. Because patients have a 50% chance of being transported by an ambulance not covered in their insurance network, many find themselves owing hundreds to thousands of dollars to the ambulance company. A state official testified that out-of-network ambulance rates vary tremendously, from $500 to over $1000 in Washington. These surprise bills from ambulances are unavoidable because patients have to use whatever ambulance responds to the emergency call.

PIRG has worked with many patients who have faced this problem, including David Feng and Christy Shum, who testified at the hearing. Christy described how she ended up owing over $6,000 in ambulance bills when their newborn, Theo, needed to get specialized care at the nearby children’s hospital. The hospital called an out-of-network ambulance to make the transfer. And because the ambulance was not covered by their insurance, it only paid $1,000 of the $7,000 bill. The bill, as proposed, would have protected this family from that unavoidable ambulance surprise balance bill. Today’s vote is just the first step to seeing this law passed for Washington residents. 

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