How Much Does an Air Ambulance Flight Cost?
Welcome to the third installment in our Air Medical Resource series about the Air Ambulance. This guide is intended for patients and families who are interested in finding out how much, typically, an advance-notice (non-emergency) air ambulance flight costs.
This is only an informational guide meant to educate families on some things they can expect and look for when totaling costs, researching available options, and comparing quotes of various services. Always rely on the advice of the patient’s physician/trained medical professionals when deciding on medical services.
Air Ambulance Flight Costs
If you or a family member will be needing an air ambulance flight in the near future, it’s a good time to do a little research and quote-gathering. It’s important to begin compiling a list of air ambulance services that will be capable of meeting the patient’s needs.
First of all, look for air ambulances that are physically located near the patient’s current location, rather than the destination. If the patient has a condition that you believe may require a specialist on board the flight, look for air ambulance companies that specifically mention such a specialist.
For example, if the patient has a breathing or cardiopulmonary disorder, look for air medical services that specifically mention a respiratory therapist. You can always contact individual air ambulance companies to clarify what specialists (and equipment) they can provide on the flight.
After making a list of candidate services, it’s time to compare flight prices. As with any other business or service, prices can vary tremendously depending on the provider.
There exist a lot of variables that can affect the total price of an air ambulance flight. Nevertheless, while it is an important consideration for many people, price alone shouldn’t be the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to which air ambulance service you choose.
First of all, make sure you know the distance of the flight. How far will the patient need to travel to get to the destination? Distance can be a primary factor in the cost of a flight, as it adds up to more time in the air (more time the air ambulance needs to pay medical flight specialists) and increased fuel costs.
The distance will also determine the type of medical aircraft that can make the trip, which in turn will affect how much the air ambulance flight costs.
A helicopter air ambulance is generally used to transport patients relatively short distances to hospitals or for emergencies.
A turboprop or jet air ambulance is a requirement for longer transports.
Another factor that shapes the price of an air ambulance flight is the number and type of medical staff that will need to be on hand for the flight. For example, if the patient only requires a flight nurse and a respiratory therapist, the cost of the transport could end up being dramatically lower than a flight requiring a larger team of in-flight specialists.
Oftentimes, the price of the air ambulance flight will include ground transportation to and from the aircraft. This is what is usually referred to by air ambulance companies as “bedside to bedside” service. If this is not mentioned, ask to make sure.
The cost of the transport often includes the cost of any additional family members or passengers that will be with the patient during the flight (when the aircraft and company allow for additional passengers). Again, it’s worth asking the air ambulance company about this directly if it isn’t clear.
Will Insurance Cover my Air Ambulance Flight?
Insurance companies will often cover the cost of air ambulance flights if they are deemed “medically necessary.”
Always double-check with your insurance company before making arrangements for the flight, if time and circumstances allow.
If your insurance provider is unable to provide coverage for the service prior to the flight, it’s common practice for the air ambulance service to ask for up-front payment. Today, many air ambulance operators accept payment for transports by credit card in addition to certified check, wire transfer, or money order for the total cost of the flight.
The total cost of air ambulance flights can range widely, from five digits all the way up to six in some rare cases. In general, a flight will be at least $10,000, but can cost more depending on the distance of the transport as well as any specialized staff and equipment that must be on board.
Because air ambulance flights can cost so much, compare quotes from different air ambulances if you can. If the patient has insurance coverage, learn the facts about what air medical transport costs are included and under what specific circumstances.
Deal Directly or Through a Broker?
You can get quotes by contacting air ambulance services yourself or by going through a broker. Be advised that a broker will find the lowest price possible, then add an additional fee for his or her services to the total cost. If you can, it is generally more advisable to deal directly with the air ambulance company.
Bottom line, dealing directly with an air ambulance company can lower your out-of-pocket expense if money is an issue, as it is for so many people, especially in today’s global economy.
Brokers can save you the trouble and potential headaches of finding an air ambulance service yourself, but will ultimately raise your total expenses in a time when you may already be dealing with expensive medical bills. It’s up to you to decide whether going through a broker is worth the cost.
When seeking an accurate flight quote from an air ambulance service, be as specific as you can about the patient’s condition and needs. This will allow the service to accurately gauge what air medical staff will need to be on hand during the transport.
As a final note, make sure to confirm what specific expenses are included in the air ambulance flight cost when trying to decide which service to use for the transport.
All it takes is a bit of diligent research that can be completed in an afternoon, and patients and their families can get the best quality care on an air ambulance flight at an affordable cost.