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Families Ask Lawmakers To Help Regulate Air Ambulance Costs

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Some families in west Kentucky are asking lawmakers to help better regulate the price of air ambulance service.

State lawmakers heard last month from two families who had to airlift their children to receive emergency medical care. Both families said their bills totaled around $60,000 and their health insurance only paid a small fraction of that cost.

Eastern Kentucky Senator Brandon Smith said he’s a helicopter pilot. He said a typical rate to charge for an aircraft that would be used for an air ambulance is around $1,500 an hour. He said he doesn’t understand how the high costs were calculated. “I think you can see within reason that you have the cost because you have the most valuable asset- your child. But $64,000 dollars shocks even me, who’s used to these...," he said. 

Air Evac serves much of the midwest and southeast United States. Public Relations Manager Shelley Schneider said the industry standard bill for an air ambulance trip is more than $40,000.

She said the cost funds the facility, the flight and the crew who work 24/7. Schneider said Air Evac’s Patient Accounts department works with insurance agencies to try to get the best reimbursement for the patient - a process that she says can take up to a year. 

Senator Danny Carroll and Representative Steven Rudy both say the cost of air ambulances is troubling, but agree “more homework needs to be done” on the issue.

Senator Morgan McGarvey plans to pre-file legislation on air ambulance insurance issues in the 2019 Legislative Session. He is testifying on the issues surrounding air ambulances before the Interim Joint Committee on Banking and Insurance on Tuesday. 

Taylor is a recent Murray State University graduate where she studied journalism and history. When she's not reporting for WKMS, she enjoys creative writing and traveling. She loves writing stories that involve diversity, local culture and history, nature and recreation, art and music, and national or local politics. If you have a news tip or idea, shoot her an email at tinman1@murraystate.edu!
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