When a loved has a medical crisis where remote access or speedy transport is required, air ambulance services regularly save lives.
But medical helicopters aren’t cheap to fly and maintain -- and for a ride on them, often only a fraction of their five-figure fare is covered by insurance. That leave patients to foot the bill.
Air ambulance services save lives, but a typical flight costs a patient between $12,000 and $25,000, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Insurance may only pay part of the cost -- and leaving patients surprised by their out-of-pocket obligation.
Healthcare industry expert Seth Denson, co-founder and chief strategist at GDP Advisors, says patients can’t always know whether air transport is a "medical necessity" -- because if it's not, their insurer can deny reimbursement.
He says air ambulance services are largely unregulated on their charges, and stay out-of-network with major insurers.
Denson says that affects even well-insured patients.
He explains to Newsradio 740 KTRH some of the wrinkles:
--Consumers “are forced to use a service,” he says, but have little or no leverage as far as how to pay for it.
--Patients can’t always know whether air transport is a medical necessity … or which provider should pick them up.
--If the air ambulance provider turns out not to have a contract with the patient's health plan, even if they have insurance, families may then be billed for the full charge of the flight or the balance left after any payment by the insurer for out-of-network coverage.