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Working Group Looks For Ambulance Cost Ceiling

Accident victims with private insurance are getting surprised by sky-high ambulance bills and Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Sha 'Ron James wants to do something about it.

The problem boils down to something called “balance billing.” That’s when medical providers bill a patient directly for services the insurance company won’t cover.

To one Florida accident victim, it meant getting socked with a 39 thousand-dollar bill when the insurance company picked up only a small portion of the 47 thousand-dollar air ambulance flight.

James says there has to be a better way.

“That is a lot of money for consumers to not expect to have to pay in order to receive these life-saving services.”

So James is asking the Florida Emergency Medical Transportation Working Group to come up with recommendations. The group includes state regulators, insurance companies and local governments, which provide the bulk of ambulance service in Florida.

Florida Fire Chiefs Association president Dan Azzariti says departments charge less than the 1,000 dollars it costs to roll an ambulance, and collect less than half of what they charge.

“Fire departments are doing this for 25 cents on a dollar. We have nothing else we can give, there’s nothing else they can do, and if insurance companies don’t want to pay more, that’s where the problem lies.”

The group will have a year to come up with recommendations.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.