Brian White | January 21, 2016 | Personal Injury
If you’ve ever been in a serious accident, you know the cost of medical treatment is one of the first things that comes to mind. Health insurance is supposed to cover expenses related to treatment and transportation to the hospital, right? Unfortunately, it’s becoming more common for insurance companies to deny coverage for ambulance or medevac transportation.
Of course, after an accident, you don’t have a choice if you’ve sustained serious injuries. Stories of excessive transportation bills have been on the rise lately, and it’s making many people question whether or not it’s morally right.
Taking an $8,700 Flight
One story of a 49-year-old New York man is particularly poignant. Charlie Taylor was loading an ATV into the back of his pickup truck when it fell out and landed on top of him. The impact broke seven of his ribs, leaving him unconscious and barely able to breathe. The paramedics quickly called an air ambulance to bring him to the hospital, which was 30 miles away. It was only a 15 minute flight, but the resulting bill was a whopping $8,700.
Fortunately, Charlie had insurance to cover the bill—but that’s not always the case for people who suffer injuries. For example, an uninsured Pennsylvania woman was in a severe car accident and needed a med flight to the hospital, where she recovered for six weeks. After her time there, the facility sent her a $500,000 bill, which included the 97-mile helicopter flight.
Average Costs of Emergency Transportation
Helicopters or airplanes transport an estimated 550,000 people to hospitals each year. On average, the aircraft flies about 52 miles to reach the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, the costs are difficult to pin down. In fact, air transportation expenses can range anywhere from $12,000 to $25,000. Generally, air transport is only used in extreme situations, as with life threating injuries, when the hospital is far away, or significant traffic stands in the way.
However, even a quick ambulance ride can quickly add up, as the average cost ranges from $800 to $2,000. Patients essentially have no choice to refuse the flight because opting out of emergency transportation would almost certainly result in death. Ambulance drivers and aircraft providers have no way to screen patients for coverage, and those with insurance don’t usually find out if the flight will be at least partly paid for until after the fact.
No Regulations on Med Flight Costs
Unfortunately, air flight costs are unregulated, meaning air carriers can charge whatever they want as a base rate. In some cases, this leads to exorbitant rates far beyond what’s considered average.
One Hawaiian man, for instance, is currently suing his insurance company for refusing to cover the bulk of his $36,000 air flight bill. The claim was escalated to a class action lawsuit. The insurance company, which has a specific clause covering necessary air ambulance transportation, claims it does not have a contract with that particular flight provider.
Costs Are on the Rise
The cost of transportation isn’t getting any lower. Most companies claim that, due to the decreasing costs of Medicare and Medicaid, reimbursement has also gone down, meaning providers must raise their prices to pay healthcare professionals. Because med flights have trained nurses and doctors on board, they must be available around the clock, which means constant pay. Still, the excessively high expense of emergency transportation leaves thousands of patients in debt, whether they have insurance coverage or not.
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