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Air ambulance rides can leave patients with severe medical debt

When a serious accident occurs, it is sometimes necessary for a patient to be air lifted in order to get the treatment they need as soon as possible. While this rapid transport may save the patient's life, it may also leave them with a hefty bill.

According to ABC News, helicopters airlift approximately 400,000 people to hospitals in this country every year. However, the companies who provide air ambulance services are allowed to set the price at whatever they want and the bill is often in the range of $40,000 or more. This is because these companies are considered part of the airline industry and thus are governed by federal laws, which means that fares have been deregulated.

While some insurance policies may cover a portion of the bill, the patient is often left owing tens of thousands of dollars. Private health insurance has been evolving in recent years, and many insurers are looking for ways to cut costs. Reducing payments for air ambulances is one such way they are doing this, even as the costs for the service have risen. The New York Times reports that one company's average bill in 2009 was $17,262; by 2014 that amount had risen to $40,766.

As the bills go unpaid, some companies add on additional interest and late fees, digging the patient further in to the hole. Many outstanding balances end up becoming debt collection lawsuits. Patients may be able to negotiate with the air ambulance company to reduce the amount owed. However, even the reduced amount may still be too much for many people to pay.

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