Emergencies happen, and in these cases, it's sometimes necessary for a patient to be transported using an air ambulance. These medical flights may be a life-saving necessity, but the bills that come afterward can be quite shocking if you aren't prepared.
The air ambulance cost has been rising, with an average cost of between $12,000 and $25,000. However, some of the 400,000 people who get transported by medical air transport each year get bills that are much higher than this -- for example, the average bill in 2014 for one company, Air Methods, was $40,766. A number of factors affect the costs, including the number of miles flown, the type of aircraft used, the specific services provided during the flight, and the company used for the flight. An international air ambulance bill would be even higher, so make sure to get travel insurance that includes this benefit if you travel overseas. You're still likely to need to pay some sort of deductible or copay, but it will help cut down on the bill.
What some people don't realize is that having health insurance or travel insurance doesn't mean that all or even part of the cost of medical flights is covered by the insurance. Check with your insurance company to find out whether your insurance covers this benefit and whether there's additional coverage you can add if it doesn't. Make sure you're clear on when these air ambulance flights will be covered and when they won't. In most cases, the attending physician must deem it medically necessary and may even need to provide a letter to that effect. Even then, the specific case will be reviewed by a doctor working for the insurance company to determine whether it really is necessary before coverage will be provided.
Understanding Medical Necessity
For an air transfer to be medically necessary, there needs to be no way that the patient can get the treatment needed where they are, and it needs to be noted that the patient might not be able to survive a trip by land ambulance. This could be the case when someone is in a very remote location far from the nearest hospital and has a life-threatening injury, such as a spinal cord or head injury, a heart attack, a stroke, serious burns, or needs a transplant. If care is needed very quickly, an air ambulance may be called even if the hospital isn't very far away if transporting the person by air will be much faster than doing so by land and the care is urgently needed.