Does Medicare Cover an Ambulance? 

No one expects a medical emergency, but thankfully, ambulance services are available in the United States to respond to medical emergencies and transport sick or injured people to the appropriate medical facilities. While it’s nice to have this option available, ambulance rides aren’t cheap.

In fact, the average cost of an ambulance is around $1,500, but prices can reach even higher. Part of the cost involved in ambulance services is the actual transportation itself, but you may also receive treatment while being transported. Additionally, an ambulance is typically staffed by multiple medical professionals, and each of them needs to get paid as well.

Because seniors are in a demographic likely to require ambulance services due to an increased risk of injury combined with mobility concerns, many seniors want to know if Medicare covers ambulance rides. Below you’ll find some answers, but keep in mind that different cities, counties and states have different regulations in place that can affect the cost of transportation by ambulance. In some areas, there is no direct cost as ambulance services are paid for through taxes.

Will Medicare cover ambulance services?

In most cases, Original Medicare does cover the cost of an ambulance and related services in the event of a medical emergency. Coverage is usually provided under Medicare Part B, the outpatient benefit. This is despite the fact that inpatient services are covered by Medicare Part A.

Because an ambulance ride does not guarantee that you will be admitted, you will use Medicare Part B coverage for an ambulance ride since these services are still considered outpatient in nature. Any treatment you receive while formally admitted into a hospital or skilled nursing facility, however, will be covered by Medicare Part A.

Like most Part B coverage, Medicare Part B coverage for an ambulance ride is provided at 80%, leaving the remaining 20% to be covered by Medicare recipients who utilize these services. You will also need to be current on your Part B premium, and you will need to have met your annual deductible before Part B coverage begins applying toward ambulance services.

Does Medicare cover international emergency transport?

Although Medicare covers ambulance services in the United States, many seniors travel for pleasure or to visit family and friends. When this travel takes them outside of the country, it’s a good idea to inquire as to whether Medicare covers ambulance services overseas.

In terms of international travel, Original Medicare benefits do not cover ambulance services when you are out of the country. The only exception to this is if you are traveling through Canada without stopping for any business in the country on your way to or from Alaska. In such cases, an ambulance ride may be covered by Medicare benefits if you require emergency services from a Canadian hospital.

Additionally, if you are on a cruise ship, Medicare Part B may cover emergency transport as long as the ship is not more than six hours away from a port in the United States. You also will have needed to have boarded the ship in territorial waters adjoining U.S. land.

Options available for international emergency transport

While there are private services you can subscribe to that cover international ambulance services, another option is to purchase Medigap insurance. This is Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance that is meant to help cover the cost of using your Original Medicare benefits.

Some Medigap policies include coverage for medical services while overseas, including ambulance services. This coverage, however, is not connected to your Medicare benefits directly. To learn more, speak with a Medigap insurance broker for answers to questions regarding your specific needs. 

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