Charge Masters versus Fee Bundling: Which Is Better for EMS Billing?

Charge Masters vs. Fee Bundling - Which is better

Fee bundling for EMS and ambulance services

As a city leader, you want to ensure that you provide the best emergency services that you can. But you also want to ensure that when a citizen is billed for ambulance services, you simplify the experience by making it as easy as possible for them to pay the bill. After all, unpaid emergency service bills can wreak havoc on your budget.

Providing medical services in an emergency situation requires a variety of highly specialized equipment and trained professionals, and there can be a laundry list of medications and lifesaving tools deployed, depending on the situation. Keeping track of these items, along with the cost associated with them, takes diligence and focused effort. There are two primary ways that EMS agencies keep track of the fees associated with providing care – charge masters and fee bundling. In this article, we will talk about why we believe creating a bundle pricing strategy will not only make it easier for patients to pay their bills but will also reduce the time and effort that goes into keeping track of charges.

What Are Charge Masters?

Charge Masters are multi-page documents that list all the individual products and tasks, tools, and medications that are provided in an ambulance. In other words, there is a line item price for everything. For instance, if your ambulances carry two types of oxygen delivery methods, the charge master would list both and their associated fees. When it comes time for billing, someone would use this fee list to create itemized invoices for billing purposes.

What Are Bundled Fees?

EMS fee bundling is a process of creating and billing based on the average cost for a certain procedure, tool, medication, and other factors for an emergency transport. In contrast to sending a patient a long list of itemized fees, some municipalities prefer to use bundled fees as an invoice system. To arrive at a bundled strategy, you would use the average cost to provide a certain type of medical service. These average costs include the tasks for each individual involved in the procedure, the cost of the required tools, and the cost of the required medications. All these individual fees are added up and that results in the price bundling.  

EMERGICON believes that there are three advantages of bundle pricing when it comes to emergency services in your city.

1. Bundled Fees Are More Patient Friendly

Undergoing emergency services is scary, and that’s compounded because most patients are fearful of the incoming bill. If you’ve ever received a medical bill, you’ll agree that it can be confusing and, sometimes, the fear is justified. Patients don’t typically understand medical terminology, so when they receive a bill that charges separately for everything that happened in the ambulance, it can be overwhelming.

But when the EMS billing sends a pure bundled fee that only contains one amount – the amount they need to pay – it will help reduce the amount of information that a patient must understand and process. Even though you’re still charging for all of the given medical treatments, many patients see the bundling products as package deals.  It’s the same concept as when people buy products in other markets with mixed bundling concepts.

2. Bundled Fees Are More Consistently Paid

One of the best reasons to use bundled fees instead of a chargemaster is that analysis shows that commercial insurance providers are more likely to deny paying for itemized services than bundled fees. That’s because when an invoice lists each individual aspect of treatment, the insurance company can more easily pick it apart and find reasons to deny it.

Then, the denied fees are passed on to the patient which results in higher out-of-pocket costs for your citizens. For cities that decide to write off patient balances or for patient balances that can’t be collected, the overall potential reimbursement is reduced. That puts a damper on your city budget as more and more money gets written off.

3. Bundled Fees are Easier to Manage

Maintaining a charge master requires a lot of energy and time. After all, every time even one component of the list changes, you have to update the entire thing. For instance, if your charge master list is 200 pages long and the price of saline goes up, you will have to make the change and update the entire list. If you utilize printed copies of the list in your city, you will have to print it again every time the list changes.

On the other hand, using bundled fees simplifies the amount of information that you have to maintain and update. Rather than making changes in real-time as they come in, you can schedule semi-annual review periods to look at the fees. Doing this ensures that your fees are up to date and saves you time, effort, and frustration with your billing.

Charge Masters or Bundled Fees: Which Is Right for Your City?

Deciding how you will bill for your emergency services is an important aspect of emergency services. Making the right decision will not only help your citizens understand their bills better, but it will ensure that commercial insurance companies pay the bill more often than not. Add to that the fact that you will save time and effort by only reviewing your fees semi-annually instead of every time a price change occurs, and it almost seems like a no-brainer.

If you’d like to talk to a professional about how changing to bundled fees could affect your city or municipality, we’re here to help. Please email us at, and we will schedule a free consultation to talk to you about which billing system would be the most beneficial for your citizens and your city.

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