Personal Health

More Than $47,000 for Emergency Transport to a Hospital—Is This Health Care?

How much does an emergency room visit need to cost before Americans finally demand single payer health care?

Air Ambulance on call.
Photo Credit: Hornbeam Arts/Flickr CC

The timidity of Americans to vote for and force real change in our health care system will continue making us a willing participant in our pilfer. The story that could potentially affect every American should be probative.

We see accidents all over our roads. At any given time any one of us could be in an accident that will require an air transport ambulance. The private organizations that provide this service must be considered modern-day pirates.

As shown in the ABC image below, this particular air ambulance company requires that some party signs a contract accepting complete responsibility for the transport bill. The agreement does not provide the actual charge the company will bill.

Air Methods billed the man $47,000 for flying his daughter a relatively short distance. ABC contacted Air Methods' spokesperson who said the bill was high to compensate for the indigent and underpayments. He then said with a straight face that the bill would only have been $12,000 otherwise.

I perused Air Methods' website. They advertise a $49 a year family plan that would accept whatever one's insurance company payout as the amount to satisfy the bill. Of course, you must apply for the program. Any guesses why one must apply as opposed to automatic acceptance?

This quick personal short is likely something that occurs thousands of times a day. Recently I had a potentially fatal blood pressure rise. A friend called 911. Some great paramedics came, gave me oxygen, took me into the ambulance, gave me an EKG, and continued to monitor my pressure. It went down some, though still at a dangerous level. When it was time to leave, the paramedics asked if I wanted to go to the hospital in the ambulance, which one, or if I wished to go in my vehicle. I immediately inferred that they were cognizant that many folks are justifiably concerned about cost.

I drove myself to the emergency room. It turned out to be a private standalone emergency room detached from any hospital. It turned out their pricing was just as ridiculous as the emergency room attached to any hospital. They gave me two pills that brought the pressure down in less than two hours. They told me I needed a CAT scan even though I exhibited no signs of a stroke. And what was my bill? It was more than $4,800. I spent less than two hours in the emergency room, had a five-minute CAT scan, and received two of the cheapest blood pressure pills.

These private companies in health care are extortionists. When one is sick or in an emergency situation, one does not have a choice or is generally unable to make cogent choices. These cancerous forms of wealth transfer to the wealthy owners of these businesses is the reason many poor and middle-class folks fail to get ahead. Their disposable income is ripped off legally. We need single payer/Medicare for all now. How much more immoral can our health care system become?

Egberto Willies is a political activist, radio hostblogger, and author. 

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