OLYMPIA — Legislation passed today by the Senate would ensure the continuation of timely ambulance response while also protecting Washingtonians from being billed for emergency ambulance service beyond the costs covered by their health plans.

SB 5986, sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), addresses emergency ambulance service on two levels. First, it clarifies rates in state statutes to fortify the availability of ambulance service in all corners of the state. Second, the bill expands existing protections that shield consumers from unexpected costs charged by out-of-network health care providers to include ground ambulance service. The additional charges, known as balance billing, have been used to make up the difference between a provider’s billed amount and the amount covered by a patient’s insurance company.

“If the provider’s charge is $1,000 and the allowed amount is $700, for example, the provider may bill you separately for the remaining $300,” Cleveland said. “SB 5986 expands the general prohibition on balance billing to cover ambulance service, to further protect patients from health care bills that were not planned for or expected.”

Cleveland said her legislation was shaped by meetings over several months with a diverse group of stakeholders, including emergency transport service providers, to find a solution that would protect consumers while establishing rates that will help keep ambulance providers in business.

“In 2020, our state was one of the first to ban balance billing for a wide range of emergency health care services,” Cleveland said. “Shortly after our state took this important step, Congress took similar action. Here in Washington, we’re now continuing to build on those protections by expanding them to ground ambulance health care services.”