Clinical UM Guideline

Subject:  Ambulance Services: Ground; Emergent
Guideline #:  CG-ANC-05Current Effective Date:  06/28/2016
Status:ReviewedLast Review Date:  05/05/2016


This document addresses the use of ground ambulances in emergency situations only. An ambulance is a specially equipped vehicle designed and supplied with materials and devices to provide life-saving and supportive treatments or interventions. Wheelchair vans or other such vehicles are not so equipped and are not addressed in this document.

Note: Please see the following related documents for additional information.

Clinical Indications

Medically Necessary:

The use of emergency ground ambulance services is considered medically necessary when the following criteria are met (1, 2, AND 3 must be met):

  1. The ambulance must have the necessary equipment and supplies to address the needs of the individual; and
  2. The individual's condition must be such that any other form of transportation would be medically contraindicated; and
  3. Either of the following circumstances exists:
    1. Transportation from the scene of a life-threatening accident or emergency to the nearest hospital or physician's office with appropriate facilities for treatment of an individual's illness or injury is required; or
    2. Transportation to or from one hospital or medical facility to another hospital or medical facility, skilled nursing facility, or free-standing dialysis center in order to obtain emergent medically necessary diagnostic or therapeutic services is required (for example magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography scan, acute interventional cardiology, intensive care unit [ICU] services [including neonatal ICU], Cobalt therapy, etc.) provided such services are unavailable at the facility where the individual initially resides.

Emergency ground ambulance services for deceased individuals are considered medically necessary when the criteria above have been met and when either of the following is present:

  1. The individual was pronounced dead while in route or upon arrival at the hospital or final destination; or
  2. The individual was pronounced dead by a legally authorized individual (physician or medical examiner) after the ambulance call was made, but prior to pick-up. In these circumstances the response to call is considered medically necessary.

Ambulance providers are required to respond to all emergency calls, but occasionally after assessment, transport is declined by the individual. In such cases ambulance services would be considered medically necessary.

Not Medically Necessary:

The use of emergency ground ambulance services is considered not medically necessary when:

  1. The criteria and circumstances above have not been met; or
  2. The services are primarily for the convenience of the individual or the individual's family or physician; or
  3. The services are for a transfer of a deceased individual to a funeral home, morgue, or hospital, when the individual was pronounced dead at the scene.

The following codes for treatments and procedures applicable to this guideline are included below for informational purposes. Inclusion or exclusion of a procedure, diagnosis or device code(s) does not constitute or imply member coverage or provider reimbursement policy. Please refer to the member's contract benefits in effect at the time of service to determine coverage or non-coverage of these services as it applies to an individual member.

A0225Ambulance service, neonatal transport, base, rate, emergency transport, one way
A0380BLS mileage (per mile)
A0390ALS mileage (per mile)
A0425Ground mileage, per statute mile
A0427Ambulance service, advanced life support, emergency transport, Level 1 (ASL1-Emergency)
A0429Ambulance service, basic life support, emergency transport (BLS-Emergency)
A0432Paramedic intercept (PI), rural area, transport furnished by a volunteer ambulance company which is prohibited by state law from billing third party payers
A0433Advanced life support, Level 2 (ASL2)
A0434Specialty care transport (SCT)
A0998Ambulance response and treatment, no transport
ICD-10 Diagnosis 
 All diagnoses
Discussion/General Information

Ambulance transport services involve the use of specially designed and equipped vehicles to transport ill or injured individuals. Ambulance transport may involve the movement of an individual to the nearest hospital for treatment of an individual's illness or injury, non-emergency medical transport of an individual to another location to obtain medically necessary specialized diagnostic or treatment services, or non-emergency medical transport to a hospital or to an individual's home. Although wheelchair vans are specially equipped to accommodate physically challenged individuals, they do not have the proper equipment to qualify as an ambulance. Proper equipment may include ventilation and airway equipment, cardiac equipment (monitoring and defibrillation), immobilization devices, bandages, communication equipment, obstetrical kits, infection control, injury prevention equipment, vascular access equipment, and medications.

An ambulance may be either a ground transportation vehicle, such as a specially equipped truck or van, but may also be a properly equipped aircraft or boat. This document specifically addresses only ground transportation-type ambulances.

In general, an emergency medical condition is defined as a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) so that a prudent layperson, who possesses an average knowledge of health and medicine, could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in:

Examples of medical emergencies may include illness or injury such as severe chest pains that might indicate a heart attack, slurred speech or weakness that might indicate a stroke, fracture, hemorrhaging, poisoning, major burns, loss of consciousness or respiratory accidents, convulsions, shock and other acute conditions.


Peer Reviewed Publications:

  1. Galvagno SM Jr, Haut ER, Zafar SN, et al. Association between helicopter vs ground emergency medical services and survival for adults with major trauma. JAMA. 2012; 307(15):1602-1610.

Government Agency, Medical Society, and Other Authoritative Publications: 

  1. American College of Emergency Physicians. Guidelines for Ambulance Diversion (1999, reaffirmed 2012). Available at: Accessed on April 10, 2016.
  2. American College of Emergency Physicians/National Association of EMS Physicians. Alternate Ambulance Transportation and Destination (2001; reaffirmed 2008). Available at: Accessed on April 10, 2016.
  3. American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma/American College of Emergency Physicians/National Association of EMS Physicians/American Academy of Pediatrics/National Association of EMS physicians. Equipment for Ambulances (2009). Available at: Accessed on April 10, 2016.
  4. Cahaba Government Benefit Administrators®. Local Coverage Determination for Transportation Services: Ambulance (L34302). Revised 10/01/2015. Available at: Accessed on April 10, 2016.
  5. Novitas Solutions, Inc. Local Coverage Determination for Ambulance (Ground) Services (L35162). Revised 10/01/2015. Available at: Accessed on April 10, 2016.
  6. Palmetto GBA. Local Coverage Determination for Ambulance Services (L34549). Revised 10/01/2015. Available at: Accessed on April 10, 2016.
  7. Thomson DP, Thomas SH; 2002-2003 Air Medical Services Committee of the National Association of EMS Physicians. Guidelines for air medical dispatch. Prehosp Emerg Care. 2007; (2):265-271.

Emergency Transport

Document History




Reviewed05/05/2016Medical Policy & Technology Assessment Committee (MPTAC) review. Updated References. Removed ICD-9 codes from Coding section.
Reviewed05/07/2015MPTAC review. Updated References.
New05/15/2014MPTAC review. Initial document development created from CG-ANC-01 Ambulance Services: Ground.