Victims Cry Foul Over Excessive Air Ambulance Bills
December 3, 2018 | Personal Injury
Charges as high as $55,000 for a one-hour ride are not uncommon, according to many accident victims.
That was the amount ValleyMed charged Sonna Anderson after she fell off her horse in Montana. Even though a ground ambulance was already on scene and time was seemingly not a factor, emergency responders insisted on the airlift. Her insurance company only paid a small portion of the bill. According to a study, air ambulance charges run between $34,000 and $533,000. In many areas, prices more than doubled between 2010 and 2014. The Affordable Care Act does not regulate these costs. So, one lawmaker called air ambulances a “cash cow.”
To be sure, hospital airlifts are often necessary in trauma injury situations where the nearest treatment center is far away. The air transport industry also claims that the expense is cost-effective when compared to the expense of building additional hospitals.
High Medical Bills and Injury Claims
AIr ambulances are enormously expensive partially because the equipment is so sophisticated and specialized. But an even bigger reason may be the lack of competition. Usually, there is only one provider for several regional trauma or urgent care centers. When there’s little or no competition, prices often rise uncontrollably. That’s the reason government regulators are so wary over large media and utility companies.
Specialized medical bills are not the only rising expenses. After a brief dip during and after the Great Recession, medical bills are increasing once more. In fact, hopital and other expenses are now at their highest level since 2010. In particular, two kinds of injury and illness expenses have increased almost exponentially as of late.
Many car crashes and falls involve head injuries. For several reasons, these wounds are difficult to diagnose straightaway. Some doctors mistake the symptoms for conditions like shock from the accident or early-onset dementia. That may be because head injuries lack a universal, signature symptom. Every one is different.
So, by the time doctors properly diagnose the condition, the head injury may already be in an advanced stage. Therefore, this difficult-to-treat injury becomes even more difficult, and even more expensive, to address.
A brain injury is permanent. Once brain cells die, they never regenerate. However, surgery and physical therapy can ease the symptoms. Often, after such a treatment regimen, few or no symptoms remain. But fast action is critical.
Doctors can perform brain surgery to reduce swelling. The longer the injury goes untreated, the more extensive this swelling becomes. Since the skull is so thick, most victims show little or no outward signs of injury through this whole process. As a result, what would have been a somewhat routine procedure becomes expensive, and extensive, brain surgery.
Extended physical therapy is very effective in these cases. But brain injury physical therapy is different from other types of therapy. Instead of reinvigorating dormant muscles, brain injury therapists must train uninjured parts of the brain to take over lost functions. Progress is very uneven, to say the least.
For the most part, cancer survival rates have improved significantly since the 1990s. That even includes rare and aggressive forms of cancer, like mesothelioma. In the 1990s, mesothelioma was essentially a death sentence. Today, it is almost as treatable as other, more common forms of cancer.
Progress is expensive. Cancer treatment bills often exceed $10,000 a month. Many health insurance companies refuse to cover these costs for liability reasons. So, victims may have nowhere else to turn for help with bills like:
- Radiation: Targeted radiation shrinks cancer tumors. Today’s focused radiation shrinks the tumor with minimal effect on surrounding, healthy tissue. So, many patients can tolerate higher radiation doses.
- Surgery: The next step is surgery to remove the tumor. This portion of the therapy is usually the most expensive, and most crucial, element.
- Chemotherapy: These drugs kill remaining cancer cells. Much like radiation therapy, modern chemotherapy drugs usually have fewer side-effects. So, patients can tolerate more aggressive treatment.
Experimental treatments, like gene therapy and phototherapy, may be available as well. Unless the patient qualifies for a clinical trial, these treatments are even more costly than traditional treatments.
What an Attorney Can Do
A good personal injury lawyers is both a good advocate and a good negotiator. Your attorney brings both these talents to bear in this stage of your personal injury case.
A letter of protection is often one of the first orders of business. Many injured or ill victims do not know where to turn, and even if they did, they lack the financial resources necessary. Letters of protection solve both these dilemmas.
Most attorneys have close relationships with top doctors. These physicians usually agree to defer payment until the case is resolved. So, the victim pays nothing upfront. Additionally, these physicians have specific expertise. For example, if you were hurt in a car crash, an attorney will make sure you see a car crash physician. This person can effectively diagnose and treat all your injuries.
The letter of protection also creates negotiating leverage. Over the course of the case, many attorneys have conversations with doctors about lowering their fees. As a result, when the case settles, victims pay less for medical bills and keep more of their settlement money.
At Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, we fight for you beginning on day one. Contact us now for a free consultation. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.
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