Southlake man learns how astronomical air ambulance bill can be
A helicopter flying a critically injured patient to a hospital can save his life, but when he finds out what the air ambulance bill is, he might have a heart attack. The average cost for the ride is now over $40,000. A med evac invoice is the poster child of our skyrocketing health care costs.
On Monday an article in the Dallas Morning News showed how enormous a bill can be. A young doctor in Southlake was severely injured and was rushed by ground ambulance to a local hospital in Wichita Falls. He had to be immediately flown 100 miles to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, the closest level one trauma center.
Sadly, after eight operations, the doctor had to have his arm amputated. A few days later as he was recovering in the hospital, he received the first of many demanding calls from the company wanting him to pay a stunning $56,603. Yes, you read that correctly.
The doctor’s health insurance company only paid about $12,000 — and only after being forced to do so since the ambulance company was out-of-network with his Blue Cross Blue Shield plan. Right after his crash, he was obviously not in a condition to verify whether the ambulance company was in-network and demand a different helicopter.
Most of these companies choose not to be in-network. If they are, they refuse to bill health insurance plans, instead billing the patient for the full amount. Or sometimes they bill Aetna or Blue Cross, which pays what it considers to be the reasonable cost of the ride. The patient is stuck with the balance, like here. The helicopter company then hires aggressive bill collectors and attorneys to file lawsuits when the exorbitant expense is not paid in full. Medical bills are the leading cause for people to file bankruptcies that ruin their credit.
The man still owed a shocking balance of $44,631. This is in addition to other inflated hospital and doctor bills he has to pay. This is a serious problem for many people after they are in a car or truck collision.
Why is an air ambulance bill so expensive?
The article points out that the company, Air Evac Lifeteam, is owned by a giant holding company based in Dallas-Fort Worth. Just last year it purchased the second largest air helicopter company in a multi-billion dollar deal and is now the largest company in the United States. It is a subsidiary of the giant Wall Street private equity firm of Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts which has a stock market value of almost $23 billion. The top three Medevac companies now control most of these flights.