Ambulance Billing Questions
Thank you for using a Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Ambulance. On behalf of the emergency personnel who treated you and the more than 2,000 employees of DC Fire and EMS, please accept our best wishes for a speedy recover from your illness or injury. Our Department provides this web page as a resource for answering questions about customer service, ambulance billing, insurance payments, hardship assistance and other topics associated with emergency services. Common questions include:
Why does the District charge ambulance fees?
To reduce the tax cost of emergency medical services (EMS) for DC residents. The Fire and EMS Department has charged ambulance fees for more than thirty years. District Government authorized such fees to offset the tax cost of providing EMS to residents and visitors. While taxes provide the majority of operational funding, ambulance fees collected from insurance companies pay approximately $1 out of every $8 spent on EMS. Although this might not seem like much, monies from other District programs would be redirected to support EMS if ambulance fees were not charged. Additionally, more than 15% of patients using EMS in the District live in Virginia or Maryland. If taxes were used as the only source of funding, Virginia and Maryland residents would essentially use the system for “free,” while DC residents paid the bill.
What types of fees are charged and how much does an ambulance ride cost?
The Fire and EMS Department follows the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “Fee Schedule for Payment of Ambulance Services” as described in Volume 67, Number 39 of the Federal Register. The new fees became effective January 1, 2009 and include the following:
- BLS Transport: $428 is charged to patients receiving “basic life support” (BLS) level care. BLS includes minimal or basic treatment and vital signs monitoring. In some cases, oxygen may also be given. Reasons for BLS transport are usually considered “non-life threatening.”
- ALS Transport: $508 is charged to patients receiving “advanced life support” (ALS) level care.
- ALS-2 Transport: $735 is charged to patients receiving extended “advanced life support” (ALS) level care. ALS-2 includes any ALS treatment listed above, combined with breathing tube insertion, CPR, multiple medications or other extended care. Reasons for ALS-2 transports are usually considered “immediately life threatening.”
- Mileage: $6.55 per loaded mile is charged to all patients transported by ambulance. Transport mileage is measured from the incident location to the receiving hospital.
The fees described above are subject to change. The most recent notice describing District of Columbia ambulance fees may be found on the Department web site or will be mailed to you upon request. Please call our customer service number at (202) 673-3331 for additional information.
A fire truck came with the ambulance. Do I get charged for that too?
No. The Fire and EMS Department only charges fees for ambulance transport. Fire trucks can respond to 911 calls faster than ambulances, meaning emergency personnel get to you quicker. No fees are charged for this service. You also will not be charged if you were evaluated and/or treated but chose not to be transported to the hospital by ambulance.
Why did the ambulance crew ask me for my personal information?
To verify your identity and prevent fraud. Because the Fire and EMS Department charges fees for service, ambulance crews are instructed to verify patient identity including name, social security number, birth date, home address and telephone number. They also may ask for health insurance, automobile insurance or employment information, depending on the situation. Our Department requires identity verification to protect patients from fraud and to assure, if possible, you are covered by healthcare or other insurance.
Will my health insurance pay my ambulance bill?
In most cases, YES. DC residents who are covered by MediCAID, Alliance or MediCARE programs will have NO out-of-pocket expenses related to ambulance bills. DC residents who are covered by private healthcare insurance MAY be required to pay a co-pay or deductible expense, generally less than $100. Ambulance patients who are not DC residents and not covered by MediCAID, MediCARE or other federal programs, will be expected to pay all ambulance charges they are responsible for. Other insurances may pay ambulance charges including automobile, homeowners, boat or “umbrella” policies.
What happens if I don’t have healthcare insurance?
We can help you! If you are a DC resident without healthcare insurance, and you are NOT eligible for MediCAID, please call (888) 828-8019 and ask to speak with a customer service specialist. Our billing office staff will provide contact and application information for the DC HealthCare Alliance, a DC Department of Health program that provides free healthcare to low-income District residents who meet income eligibility requirements.
Are there any programs for senior citizens?
YES! Effective January 1, 2009, if you are a senior citizen covered by MediCARE and a DC resident, you are no longer responsible for paying ambulance charges NOT covered by MediCARE or another insurance plan. Please make certain you sign any MediCARE verification forms offered by the ambulance crew or mailed to you by our ambulance billing office.
I’m NOT a DC resident and don’t have health insurance. Am I still responsible for paying my ambulance charges?
In most cases, YES. If you are NOT a DC resident, Federal Law requires the District to bill you for the full amount of ambulance charges and pursue payment of such charges. If you do NOT have healthcare or other insurance and cannot afford to pay your charges, please call (888) 828-8019 and ask to speak with a customer service specialist. Our billing office staff will provide information concerning payment options. You may be required to complete and submit application forms or other information.
What is the telephone number for ambulance billing questions?
For all questions related to ambulance billing including insurance, payment and hardship assistance, please call (888) 828-8019 Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) between the hours of 8:30 AM and 7:00 PM, east coast United States time.
What is the payment mailing address and contact information for ambulance billing?
Please mail ALL correspondence concerning ambulance billing, including payments, forms, letters and other correspondence to:
DC Fire and EMS Department
P.O. Box 27767
Washington, DC 20038
Make checks payable to: District of Columbia Treasurer
Main Phone: 1(888) 828-8019
Secure Website Inquiry: www.emsclaims.net
Select “DC Fire and EMS Department” from “Please Select City/County Name”
Medical Records Information: (202) 673-2039
HIPAA/PRIVACY/FOIA Information: (202) 673-3397
HIPAA and Privacy. The District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department may use your protected health information (PHI) for purposes of securing payment of ambulance charges. This may include submitting insurance claims, submitting claims to other third parties identified as responsible for payment of charges, or mailing you an invoice requesting payment. Claims for payment of charges may be submitted directly or through the use of a third party billing company and/or clearing house. Follow-up use of PHI for payment purposes may include management of billed claims for services rendered, medical necessity determinations and reviews, insurance company appeals, utilization review and collection of outstanding accounts. Designated agency personnel, including contractual personnel, may review and use PHI to verify your eligibility for certain services including eligibility for “hardship” classification, medical assistance programs or other special designations.