Does Medicare Cover Air Ambulance Transportation?

Medicare Part B does cover emergency air ambulance transportation in an airplane or helicopter if your health condition requires immediate and rapid transportation that ground transportation cannot provide.

Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans also cover air ambulance transportation when medically necessary. The costs and coverage rules may vary depending on your Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage plans also include an annual out-of-pocket spending limit, which Original Medicare does not offer.

An air ambulance medical team helps treat a patient with helicopter in background

When is an air ambulance ride covered by Medicare?

At least one of the following circumstances must apply in order for your air ambulance services to be covered by Medicare:

  • Your pickup location can’t be easily reached by ground transportation.
  • Long distances or other obstacles, such as heavy traffic, could prevent you from getting the immediate care you need if you traveled by ground ambulance.

Because Medicare Advantage plans are required to offer at least the same benefits as Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), an air ambulance ride should be covered by a Medicare Advantage plan if your situation meets the same criteria.

What you pay for emergency air ambulance transportation, rules and choices will vary depending on your specific Medicare Advantage plan terms and conditions.

If you have Original Medicare, Medicare Part B will typically cover 80 percent of the cost of your air ambulance ride. You will typically pay the 20 percent Part B copayment after you meet your Part B deductible, which is $185 per year in 2019.

Does Medicare cover ground ambulance transportation?

Ground transportation is also covered by Medicare Part B, but only when other transportation options could endanger your health.

Medicare will only cover emergency ambulance services to the nearest appropriate medical facility. If you choose to be transported to a facility that is farther away, Medicare will only cover what it costs to take you to the closest facility that can give you the care you need, and you must pay the rest.

Note: Medicare’s payment could be different if you’re transported by a Critical Access Hospital (CAH). Critical Access Hospitals are small facilities that provide outpatient and limited inpatient services to people in rural areas.

Do Medicare Advantage plans pay for non-emergency medical transportation?

Some Medicare Advantage plans may offer coverage for non-emergency medical transportation, such as trips to your doctor’s office. In fact, the popular ride-sharing app Lyft is partnering with some Medicare Advantage plans to help arrange rides for plan beneficiaries.

Compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area

Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurers as an alternative to Original Medicare.

In addition to offering the standard benefits that Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) offers, most Medicare Advantage plans cover prescription drugs, vision, dental, hearing and other benefits that Original Medicare does not cover.

A licensed insurance agent can help you find and compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area.

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