BIG PHARMA POLITICS: Consumers pressure politicians to do something about rising drug prices. Read More
Has this scenario happened to someone you know?
A patient is transported to the hospital by air ambulance, usually in a helicopter. The insurance provider covers part of the bill, but the excessive cost, usually $20,000 or more per trip, means the patient is still on the hook to pay thousands of dollars out of his or her own pocket.
Surprised and outraged, the patient pressures the insurance provider to pay more.
This story is all too common, and this week in Washington, D.C., air ambulance companies admitted they want their patients outraged at the size of their bill.
During the Department of Transportation’s Air Ambulance and Patient Billing Advisory Committee, air ambulance companies said they count on making unsuspecting patients outraged with sticker shock so they pressure their insurance company to pay the expensive bill.
“They’re angry and compelled at the same time to work to cause the insurance company to pay a little more,” David Motzkin, president of the air ambulance company PHI Health told the committee, as reported by Bloomberg. Otherwise, Motzkin says, patients often see no choice but to pay the bill themselves, or risk being sent to a collections agency and having the bill on their credit record.
Sending these high bills to people isn’t harmless, according to Patricia Kelmar, director of health policy for the National Consumers League. Even if the air ambulance companies and insurers ultimately work out payment, patients may still face collection demands.
A number of states have acted to limit surprise billing practices, but huge gaps remain. Too many Americans today are unprotected from surprise bills.