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We Can’t Afford the $42K Life Flight Air Ambulance Bill

By on August 29, 2018

Question:

Dear Steve,

My husband and I have just been stuck with a devastating $42,000 life flight bill. What should we do?

I found you on Facebook, and was hoping you might be able to provide some advice in a time of hopelessness and desperation.

My husband and I have been working to get out of debt for the past 4 years, and by the grace of God were able to get almost all debts paid off, build credit, and just bought our very first home together this summer.

At the beginning of July, my husband had an accident and had to be airlifted to the hospital. I had just switched jobs, and the accident happened right in the transition during those few months when we didn’t have health insurance.

We were stuck with a devastating $42,000 life flight bill for a 10 minute ride, $6,500 ER bill, $2,000 radiology bill, and $800 ambulance bill. We only make $60k a year between the two of us. Should we file bankruptcy? Please help. God bless you.

Meghan

Answer:

Dear Meghan,

Medical debt is entirely out of control. It’s a mess. It’s tough enough when you go to the hospital to even have a clue if the person walking into your hospital room is part of your insurance network. Hospital bills are divided up into services provided by the hospital or provided by an outside business contractor.

Having a serious accident and needing a helicopter medical evacuation leaves the injured person at the pure chance of whoever flys in. The victim has no control over how much the service they didn’t order, will cost.

I can give you two answers. Both are correct.

Answer 1: You can contact the air ambulance company and attempt to negotiate a lesser balance. However, even at half the price, it may still be way out of your ability to repay a bill you didn’t get a chance to weigh in on.

READ  Lifesaving Flights Can Come With Life-Changing Bills

Here is what Dave Ramsey said to someone who had a big life flight bill.

Answer 2: The situation sucks. Dave Ramsey’s answer is unrealistic. His avoidance of bankruptcy in this situation is ridiculous. I just don’t get his logic of you should avoid bankruptcy but it is okay to offer the creditor 25 percent of what is owed and tell them to take that as payment in full. How can it be okay to not pay 75 percent of the bill but it is horrible to not pay 100 percent?

Let’s look at facts. The $51,300 bill was beyond your control. You can’t let a past financial misfortune destroy your financial future. I think you should find a great bankruptcy attorney, file bankruptcy and get the fresh start the law allows you to have.

There is no apparent math solution that will let you manage the total debt from the accident. Once you file bankruptcy, focus on building your emergency fund and try to build a financial safety net for future surprises.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

5 Comments

  1. Meghan Shagla

    September 5, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks for your time and advice Steve!

  2. Gordon Wayne Watts

    August 30, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    I agree that Dave’s one suggestion is ridiculous, Steve, but in all fairness, we are all honest, here, and they did render a service, and if the guy can pay something he should, — and Dave’s other suggestion to try and sue the insurance company is spot on correct. Gordon Wayne Watts, Lakeland, Fla, ..between Tampa and Orlando .

    • Steve Rhode

      August 31, 2018 at 9:07 am

      Here is my issue about suing the insurance company over an air ambulance flight. Unless your policy says the benefits will cover an out of network air ambulance expense the insurance company has no obligation to provide any insurance benefit. Here is where it gets really tricky. According to AMR air ambulance, “Perhaps the most important rule regarding air ambulance care in the United States is that the travel must be deemed medically necessary by a doctor or other licensed care provider.” And, “When it comes time to schedule air ambulance services, knowing whether your insurance will cover your flight (and what may actually be covered) is crucial.”

      In this case, the family did not have health insurance but for families that due, health insurance is NOT a guarantee of any coverage of air ambulance rides. As Consumers Reports says, “For-profit air-ambulance companies too often pick up people who don’t need air transport—and leave families with huge bills that insurance won’t pay.” Here is a perfect example:

      “Ambulance paramedics on the scene when Jennie arrived said that Ashlyn should be sent by helicopter to a burn center in Gainesville for fast treatment.

      Jennie was surprised: The hospital was only about 40 miles away and the burns didn’t seem extensive to her. But in that situation, she recalled, “I’m a mom first,” so she didn’t question the decision.

      Ashlyn left the hospital after four days and was back at school within two weeks. The Stouts’ insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, covered her hospital bills and outpatient therapy.

      But two months later, the family got another shock: A notice from Med-Trans, the air-ambulance company, telling them that the transport was $24,000.

      It turns out that medical-emergency helicopters are often “out of network” and not fully covered by insurance. Blue Cross and Blue Shield paid only $5,700, leaving the family with the balance: $18,300.” – https://www.consumerreports.org/medical-transportation/air-ambulances-taking-patients-for-a-ride/

      So if we go back to the guy in the Dave Ramsey video, Dave’s advice to sue the insurance company, in my opinion, is ridiculous. Before jumping to sue the person needs to look at two critical factors. The first is if their insurance benefits provide any air ambulance coverage and the second, and probably the most important if the policy does, is the transport deemed medically necessary by someone other than an emergency responder at the scene.

      Finally, remember that being protected legally by bankruptcy from impossible financial situations does not mean anybody can’t repay what they want to after bankruptcy.

  3. Meghan

    August 29, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Asked question about air ambulance bill.

    • Meghan Shagla

      September 5, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      Thank you both for your responses. First of all, Dave Ramsey’s advice in my opinion is completely unrealistic. Not to mention every situation is different and unique. My husband and I both getting three “decent paying jobs” would be almost impossible and not likely manageable. Not to mention we would be slaving our lives away and most likely still be struggling in the end. The monthly payments that they are requiring for these medical bills are completely unrealistic and impossible, even with a discount applied that they’ve offered. We did NOT have health insurance at the time of the accident. I had just switched jobs and we were in the 2 month gap in between insurance companies. After all of the research I have done on Airmethods “The flight company” almost all insurance companies refuse to pay more than 5K toward the bill because they feel the patient was charged wrongly far above and beyond what they should have been charged. So insurance or not, it wouldn’t have helped.

      My response to Gordan is this: You are correct in the fact that we should pay for the services that they provided. However, flight companies such as Airmethods can charge whatever and however much they want despite what services were actually provided. It’s horrible that they can scam you the way that they do when you’re in such a vulnerable state. The mileage fee on our bill was reasonable I would say. $8,000 for 20 miles and a less than 10 minute helicopter ride. But they charged us a “base rate” as they call it of $35,000! A rate in which they would not break down in detail what it was even for. Their response was, “we can charge you whatever we want for a base rate on top of the mileage. It’s just our fees”

      My main point is this. We would love to pay for the services that were provided. However, the monthly amount that they are insisting on is unfathomable. The hospital said that the only way they’ll set up a payment plan is if we pay almost $600 a month for 12 months, or they are sending us to collections. The Airmethods company is asking for almost $1,000 a month for 36 months. To break it down for you monthly: $600 a month ER bill, $1,000 a month life flight bill, $300 a month radiology bill, $100 ambulance bill, $1,300 mortgage, $200 for utilities and trash, $100 car insurance, $170 phone bill….. Might as well forget a roof over our head and food to eat for the next 5 years. That’s my point. That’s why it’s NOT possible. It’s NOT realistic for average people such as my husband and myself who are just trying to make it by. My husband’s a collage graduate, we both have excellent jobs and we still couldn’t even begin to afford those monthly expenses that they are insisting upon. It’s insane. I’ve read dozens of news articles on the very same company putting people into financial ruin by charging far above and beyond for what services were actually provided.

      I’m seeing now we will have to file bankruptcy. If they can’t work with us on what’s reasonable, then we can’t work with them. Hopefully we won’t lose our brand new home we just bought on account of all this. I just want the nightmare to end. This is the most stressful and horrific experience of my life. I’m just praying God will give us mercy soon, as still let us keep our home.

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