Years ago, if you suffered a traumatic injury and were not treated immediately at a nearby hospital, you died or faced a lifetime of disability. Today, the chances of saving life and limb are increased by perpetual advances in medical technology. And one of the best life-saving practices involves the use of air ambulances.
Burns, heart attacks, and strokes all require quick medical intervention. Air ambulances can be lifesavers for anyone needing critical care. But in recent years, the proliferation of their use is causing many to ask when and in what circumstances they are really necessary.
CNN investigated the world of air ambulances and uncovered seriously inappropriate uses of the lifesaving technology. CNN reached out to each state’s insurance regulatory office. The network saw bills that ranged from $34,000 to $533,000. A 2017 federal investigation found that the average cost increase for an air ambulance flight doubled between 2010 and 2014. In New Mexico alone, the cost went up 229% between 2006 and 2015.
Insurance associates and commissioners’ offices have tried to help. Congress has not passed any legislation to protect against the exponential increases in costs. And states are powerless to do anything because judges keep telling them the issue is federal. Unfortunately, it is: the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act removed states’ abilities to control routes and airfares. Air ambulances were uncommon then, so there was no reason to anticipate the inevitable problem.
So, until Congress decides to act, these rising costs will likely never stop. Let’s hope you never need an air ambulance and that your insurance covers the whole cost if you do.