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Illustration: Aïda Aimer/Axios

If you ever find yourself in a helicopter on the way to the hospital, chances are you’re in for a very big bill.

By the numbers: The average cost for an air ambulance is over $36,000, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

  • And a whopping 69% of the emergency transports GAO studied were outside of patients' insurance networks, meaning the patients who received those transports were at a higher risk of being billed for the bulk of the trip themselves.

Context: GAO didn't collect information specifically on how many airlifted patients received such bills. Of the patient complaints it did review, though, all but one were for more than $10,000.

  • Non-flying ambulances aren't a ton better: The GAO report cites a study that says 51% of all four-wheeled ambulance trips are also out-of-network.

My thought bubble ... You may be sick of hearing me say this by now, but it's true: Health care is not a competitive market, and the more you need it, the less competitive it is. If you need an ambulance, you're in no position to be a smart shopper about ambulance rides.

Go deeper: More people are taking Ubers over ambulances to the hospital

Go deeper

Storms pummel Pacific Northwest as floodwaters rise

An image of the water-logged Sumas Prairie area taken last Friday. Photo: B.C. Ministry of Transportation/Twitter.

The latest ferocious storm system to hit the Pacific Northwest triggered fresh evacuation orders in flood-ravaged British Columbia and at least one mudslide late Sunday.

Threat level: Flood sirens sounded in Washington state as the Nooksack River overflowed south across the border and into Canada. Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun told reporters there was "nothing to stop it," as the rising waters neared the B.C. border city.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Former Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over book

Former President Trump and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the White House in 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Defense Department, accusing the Pentagon of "censoring" his First Amendment rights by redacting parts of his upcoming book on the Trump administration.

The big picture: Esper, who served as defense secretary from July 2019 until he was fired by then-President Trump in November last year, alleges in the suit that "significant text" is "being improperly withheld from publication" of the manuscript "under the guise of classification."