Mar 21, 2019

Air ambulances are expensive and most likely out of network

Illustration: Aรฏda Aimer/Axios

If you ever find yourself in a helicopter on the way to the hospital, chances are youโ€™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

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Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and U.S. ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 โ€” while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. Meanwhile, Italy reported its first virus-related death on Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,359 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 11 hours ago - Health

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Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.