The United States Government Accountability Office released their report on air ambulance rates around the country and found that their costs have significantly increased in just a few years. They recommend that they make pricing information available to consumers and health and insurance companies, since many people often have no choice but to employ their services but their high bills can catch people off guard after the fact.
The organization found that between 2010 and 2014, the median price charged by air ambulance companies doubled to $30,000 per ride. They used Medicare data and private insurance data.
Air ambulance companies take on Medicare and Medicaid patients, they cannot deny those patients even if they cannot pay, but make up for their loss by charging private insurance high fees. The median Medicare payment per ride in 2014 was $6,502. Sometimes patients with private insurance are left to foot the remainder of the bill if their insurance does not cover the full amount or if they are not in network. Some states, like North Dakota, have legislation that would require insurers to notify patients who are in non-emergency situations of what their network status is with a certain air ambulance provider.
Department of Transportation officials have not investigated potentially unfair practices but they say they are looking to obtain more information about air ambulance companies. They state that they do not receive many complaints about the industry, but maybe that is because people do not look at the department as the one to complain to. The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Transportation take steps to make information available on properly filing a complaint, make the complaint results available, and to consider air ambulance consumer disclosure requirements.
Check out the full report here.