The Difference Between Ambulance Services and Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

The difference between an ambulance and non-emergency medical transport services (NEMT) is a matter of urgency. When emergency help is summoned, an ambulance arrives and moves an injured or ill person to a hospital as quickly as possible. In most cases, medical transport services are scheduled ahead of time and does not require a fast trip or the use of a siren. It is for people who need help moving from one place to another but do not require emergency care. This can be either local or long distance transport.

Emergency Ambulance Service

An ambulance is called in the following situations:

  •  Stroke or heart attack
  •  Injuries sustained from a car accident or fall
  •  Any life-threatening situation that requires immediate medical attention


Non-Emergency Medical Transport

A NEMT is used in the following scenarios:

  •  Doctor’s appointments, physical therapy or dialysis. There is no need for emergency medical attention.
  •  No free or public transport available. Family or friends do not have the time or the means to take the person where they need to go.
  •  Physical limitations that necessitate a specialized vehicle. Those who are in a wheelchair or bedbound may have no other options.
  •  Long-distance travel. An ambulance is typically local, while a NEMT can operate both locally and long distance.

Ambulance Ride Cost

In general, an ambulance ride with basic life support averages $600 and up. The cost of the trip is determined by the equipment that is used and the miles traveled. Circumstances that require advanced life support start at $1,000 and can go much higher, depending on distance and the equipment used on the way. Most insurance plans cover some emergency ambulance expenses, but the patient often has to pay a portion out of pocket. The general rule is larger cities, such as Miami and Los Angeles, tend to have higher ambulance costs, averaging about $1,000 per ride. Smaller localities may use tax dollars to fund ambulance service.


Non-Emergency Transport Cost

The biggest benefit of local NEMT is a lower cost per trip. This can start as low as $30, which is often less than cab fare to the hospital or doctor’s office. The expenses are limited because it is not an ambulance service, and there is no need for emergency care. Patients are simply moved from their homes to their destinations and back again. The main focus of NEMT is comfort and convenience. The patient can pay a small fee and avoid having to take public transport or depending on other people to take them where they need to go. They can travel in a dignified manner and get the help and support they need along the way. Long Distance NEMT services are substantially higher. The reason for higher costs for long distance transports are larger crew, specialized vehicles, as many as 24 hours on the road, crew hotel, food and salary costs.

Choosing the Right Service

Finding the right NEMT service requires time and research. The company should have a certified crew member on board, be insured and also have excellent reviews from current and past customers. The vehicle fleet should be available for inspection, and the staff should answer any questions before booking a trip. Quality is the key. Not all services are the same, and it is important to have the right match for the patient.

Medical Transport Services is always standing by to serve the needs of patients. Call 1-800-687-0607 or visit the website for more information and to schedule a consultation.

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