#Air ambulance questionable practices

Tragically, the helicopter medevac industry is rife with controversy from multiple accidents to questionable practices in billing for services. Across the country victims of accidents are being confronted with sky-high bills that are not paid by insurance companies. When people are at their most vulnerable fearing for their lives, a helicopter may be called for transport. Once it arrives and the person is on a gurney, there is a request to sign a consent document.   No where on the document is there any estimate of the costs that will be incurred.   Since Federal law deregulated fares for the airline industry, air ambulances can pretty much charge whatever they like.   States are essentially unable to regulate sky-high bills. Many insurance companies refuse to fully cover what they view as “excessive” billing; this leaves families faced with huge unpaid balances. ABC news is discovering high prices and aggressive collection practices as families struggle with the aftermath of a tragic event for a family member.

A family of Owensboro, Ky. confronted with $47,000 bill for a 30 minute flight for their daughter strives to fend off aggressive debt collectors.   The “golden hour” which in past times has been regarded as the critical time frame to save a life. In some instances, even after a patient arrives at a hospital they may have to a considerable time before treatment.   In some instances, the trip to the hospital could have been made in faster time in an ambulance.  Typically, a paramedic in the field will make the decision to call for a helicopter. In some instances, the victim may be discharged from the emergency room. All of this poses the question: was a helicopter the most appropriate provider.

Across the country there similar complaints. In one instance a transport for a nine mile ride cost $26,000. Insurance did not pay for the total expense and left a family faced with a $10,725 bill along with interest. Air Methods, one of the largest helicopter medevac services based out of Englewood, Colorado operates a for-profit company, transporting more than 100,000 patients annually, across 48 states.   Essentially, there is no oversite on what a helicopter provider bills. This service argues, their pricing is based on having to be available 24/7, 365 days a year and highly trained flight nurses on board.   Further, 70 percent of those provided for are covered by Medicaid, Medicare or are uninsured.   In essence, those with insurance or resources are charged for those who cannot pay.   Air ambulances have a legal responsibility to respond without any knowledge of the patient’s ability to pay. ABC news  “Nightline” has carried out investigations finding similar stories across the country.

Tragically, the helicopter medevac industry is rife with controversy from multiple accidents to questionable practices in billing for services. Across the country victims of accidents are being confronted with sky-high bills that are not paid by insurance companies. When people are at their most vulnerable fearing for their lives, a helicopter may be called for transport. Once it arrives and the person is on a gurney, there is a request to sign a consent document.   No where on the document is there any estimate of the costs that will be incurred.   Since Federal law deregulated fares for the airline industry, air ambulances can pretty much charge whatever they like.   States are essentially unable to regulate sky-high bills. Many insurance companies refuse to fully cover what they view as “excessive” billing; this leaves families faced with huge unpaid balances. ABC news is discovering high prices and aggressive collection practices as families struggle with the aftermath of a tragic event for a family member.

A family of Owensboro, Ky. confronted with $47,000 bill for a 30 minute flight for their daughter strives to fend off aggressive debt collectors.   The “golden hour” which in past times has been regarded as the critical time frame to save a life. In some instances, even after a patient arrives at a hospital they may have to a considerable time before treatment.   In some instances, the trip to the hospital could have been made in faster time in an ambulance.  Typically, a paramedic in the field will make the decision to call for a helicopter. In some instances, the victim may be discharged from the emergency room. All of this poses the question: was a helicopter the most appropriate provider.

Across the country there similar complaints. In one instance a transport for a nine mile ride cost $26,000. Insurance did not pay for the total expense and left a family faced with a $10,725 bill along with interest. Air Methods, one of the largest helicopter medevac services based out of Englewood, Colorado operates a for-profit company, transporting more than 100,000 patients annually, across 48 states.   Essentially, there is no oversite on what a helicopter provider bills. This service argues, their pricing is based on having to be available 24/7, 365 days a year and highly trained flight nurses on board.   Further, 70 percent of those provided for are covered by Medicaid, Medicare or are uninsured.   In essence, those with insurance or resources are charged for those who cannot pay.   Air ambulances have a legal responsibility to respond without any knowledge of the patient’s ability to pay. ABC news  “Nightline” has carried out investigations finding similar stories across the country.

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