Opinion: Stop outrageous air ambulance bills by disclosing the transport price

Society should worry when private equity invests in specific health care services with the kind of gusto it has invested in the air ambulance industry.

Although so-called surprise medical bills have become commonplace and routinely provoke outrage, even those numb to the staggering charges by hospitals are horrified by the avarice of many air ambulance companies.

Generating bills that can exceed $500,000, air ambulances are the giant squid of surprise bills that suffocate unsuspecting patients. One air ambulance bill sought $54,727 from a Bismarck, N.D., woman for a transport that would have taken less than one hour by ground, even after a ground ambulance had already arrived at the scene and had stabilized her. Her insurance paid for less than $14,000, leaving her with a $41,029 bill.

These staggering charges are caused by a confluence of market failures.

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