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Air ambulance companies are offering annual subscriptions to help people living in rural areas avoid surprise medical bills. This practice would be very attractive to people who live, work or play dozens of miles from the nearest hospital.
Those miles can add up. A recent federal report found that the median price for a medevac helicopter in 2017 was $36,400 – a 60 percent increase compared with the price in 2012. To give customers peace of mind, air ambulance companies such as AirMedCare offer annual subscriptions. For $85 or less, depending on discounts, AirMedCare promises that you will never have to pay for a flight with one of their helicopters as long as you’re a member.
If true, why are state insurance leaders, politicians, and even one of the nation’s largest air ambulance companies raising alarms about these practices?
More often than not the company responding to a patient’s call for help is not the one with which the patient has a membership. And the patient has no control over which air ambulance operator will be called. North Dakota has nine different operators, which increases the odds you won’t be served by your membership company.
What’s more, Medicare patients are already protected from surprise air ambulance bills because federal law prohibits the companies from charging more than copays and deductibles.
These memberships can end at any time without notifying a customer because it’s not officially regulated like insurance or a covered benefit either.
North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread explained to Kaiser Health News that these memberships are “another loophole.” The subscriptions often don’t solve the problem of surprise medical bills.
If you’ve ever received an air ambulance surprise medical bill, share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.