Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Uber, Lyft, Taxi or Ambulance Hospital Rides? Which Should You Use?

Should you always take an ambulance to the emergency room when you are sick or injured and cannot drive?  Transportation choices have changed dramatically over the past few years.  Not only are people using ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft to go to work or run errands, those services are now becoming an option for non-life-threatening emergencies.  In fact, depending on where you live, the next time you call 911, a triage nurse may send a Lyft car rather than an ambulance to pick you up.

When is a Ride-Share Car a Good Alternative to an Ambulance?

Not every trip to urgent care or the emergency room is a true life or death emergency.  If you are seriously injured in an accident, experiencing chest pains or have symptoms of a stroke or anaphylactic shock, you definitely should call 911 and have paramedics and an ambulance rush to your location as quickly as possible.  They can begin life-saving care on the way to the hospital.

However, if you have the flu, a sprained ankle, a minor cut which may require stitches, or a similar emergency which is not life-threatening, it is possible you may be provided with transportation other than an ambulance.  For example, in Fort Worth, Texas when you call 911 a triage nurse will decide whether or not you actually need an ambulance. If not, they are now authorized to send a Lyft driver to pick you up and take you to the emergency room or urgent care, instead.  In Phoenix, the Fire and Rescue Department gives non-emergency patients a taxi voucher which is good for a ride to the hospital.  Other cities are beginning to offer similar programs.

Advantages of Ride Sharing and Taxis over Ambulances

The most obvious advantage of using a ride sharing or taxi service is that it can save a substantial amount of money for both you and your insurance company.  A ride in an ambulance can easily cost $1000 or more, and insurance often only partially covers the cost, with the patient expected to pay the remainder.  If you are unable to drive yourself because you are too ill or in pain, a taxi or ride share will be much less expensive.

Another advantage to using Uber or Lyft for non-emergency medical trips is that you can choose where you are taken.  They will drive you to the hospital emergency room or urgent care center of your choice.  This could be especially helpful if your personal physician is affiliated with only one of the local hospitals or if your HMO has specific hospitals which are in your network.

What Do Uber and Lyft Think About Being Used as Alternatives to Ambulances?

According to Kate Margolis, a spokeswoman for Lyft, "In any medical emergency people should be calling 911."  Uber agrees.

However, if you are unable to drive yourself, but you need medical attention, being transported by Lyft, Uber or taxi may be the perfect and more affordable alternative to calling an ambulance.

Ambulance services are seeing the difference. In areas where Uber and Lyft ride-sharing services are doing well, ambulance rides have decreased by an average of 7 percent.

Are you interested in more information about common medical problems as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more?  Use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Reference:  AARP Bulletin April 2018

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