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An air ambulance. Photo: Steve Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images via Getty Images

Air ambulances charge higher rates relative to Medicare than most other services, and these rates have increased over time, according to another new study in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: Insurers often don't contract with air ambulances, meaning patients may be charged exorbitant sums for emergency transportation whether they're insured or not.

By the numbers: Air ambulances charged between 4.1 and 9.5 times more than Medicare paid for these services in 2016, depending on the type of ambulance and type of charge.

  • The median charge per air ambulance trip increased from about $24,000 in 2012 to about $39,000 in 2016.
  • The median ground ambulance charge was 2.8 times what Medicare paid.

What we're watching: Air ambulances are very unhappy with the provisions of a Senate health care bill that would force them to separate out transportation and medical charges, prohibit them from balance billing patients, and establish a payment benchmark for out-of-network care.

  • But, as the authors of the study write, "without congressional or regulatory effort to address air ambulance billing practices, patients — who in emergencies have few options and little bargaining power — are at risk of exposure to excessive charges."

Go deeper: Air ambulances are expensive and most likely out of network

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

What overwhelmed hospitals look like

A healthcare professional suits up to enter a COVID-19 patient's room in the ICU at Van Wert County Hospital in Ohio. Photo: Megan Jelinger/AFP

Utah doctors are doing what they say is the equivalent of rationing care. Intensive care beds in Minnesota are nearly full. And the country overall continues to break hospitalization records — all as millions of Americans travel to spend Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Why it matters: America's health care workers are exhausted, and the sickest coronavirus patients aren't receiving the kind of care that could make the difference between living and dying.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Southwest CEO: "You should fly"

The official guidance of the CDC says that "postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year."

  • Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, however, took the opposing position when he was interviewed by "Axios on HBO." "You should fly," he told me, adding that "we need to have as much commerce and business and movement as is safe to do."

Cárdenas: Democrats need to be more "culturally competent" to win

Photo: Paul Morigi via Getty Images

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who's running for chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told "Axios on HBO" that the DCCC needs to change "overnight" and his colleagues need to be more "culturally competent" if they want to be successful in the next election.

Why it matters: House Democrats are confronting what went wrong and what their party needs to change after they failed to expand their House majority and President Trump expanded his support among Latino voters.