And the affluent should pay their fair tax share to help make that access a reality for everyone.

By Bob Hertz,

If you call 911 and the fire department comes, you will generally pay nothing. In virtually all cities, fire departments operate as a public service financed by local government, usually via property taxes.

paramedics rush patient into ambulance EMT EMS

But if you call 911 for an ambulance, you could face a huge bill, even for a short ride. Ambulances typically don’t operate as a free public service. In many states the average balance due runs over $1,000.

Having health insurance does help, but deductibles and exclusions can still leave you with a huge bill. A medical emergency that requires an ambulance can easily drive you into debt.

People sometimes beg not to be put in ambulances, even in situations where they clearly need them. One Boston resident, her gashed leg caught between a subway train and the platform, pleaded with worried fellow passengers to forego any call to an ambulance service.

“I have terrible health insurance,” she explained.

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