Costs for medical transportation can vary

Keri Thornton | Daily Press

Med-Trans bases a medically-equipped Bell 407GXP helicopter at Northeastern Health System.

There are several services in place to help ease the burden of an abrupt and costly medical emergency.

Many ambulance companies are free to charge as much as they wish with little competition between them.

Nowadays, the cost for an ambulance ride can range from less than $400 to $800 or more, plus mileage. Ambulance companies don't have contracts with insurers.

Those with Medicare are covered for ground ambulance transportation and may pay for emergency ambulance transportation in a helicopter.

Medicare will only cover ambulance services to the nearest appropriate medical facility that's able to give the care needed, according to medicare.org.

Erielle Stout, Northeastern Health System senior director of marketing and development, said the average payment for ambulance transportation to NHS is $600.

"Ambulance rides vary in cost based off of distance and acuity. In addition, various insurance may require different out-of-pocket payments," said Stout.

Some cities offer services that help the burden of a medical emergency. For Oklahoma City residents, EMSAcare costs $3.60 per month and is charged on their utility bill.

The service includes most of the OKC and Tulsa metro area.

County employees are now covered with a medical transport solutions plan and payment through MASA - Medical Transport Solutions.

District 3 County Commissioner Clif Hall said employees can opt in or out, and the plan allows them to be flown from where an incident occurred. Hall said if something were to happen to him in Colorado, he can be transported to the closest medical facility or back to Oklahoma.

"The employee pays $7 and county is going to pick up $7, so we're going to pay half of the $14," Hall said. "It's $3.50 per paycheck to have life flight insurance. There are stipulations just like with every insurance policy."

Med-Trans bases a medically-equipped Bell 407GXP helicopter at Northeastern Health System, which serves the citizens of north, central and southeast Oklahoma, as well as north and mid-south Arkansas.

Northeastern Health System does not bill and collect for First Flight services.

Nicole Lee, Global Medical Response public relations manager, said the company has become in-network providers with a number of insurers.

"GMR actively negotiates fair and reasonable in-network insurance agreements in the interest of protecting our patients, stabilizing operations, and easing the administrative burden of claims processing," Lee said. "Unfortunately, in some markets, commercial insurance carriers have made it a point to narrow their networks and exclude air medical services all together."

GMR works with uninsured patients in order to find payer sources that may assist with reimbursement.

"Our team of patient advocates work with insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid to process claims, or work directly with patients if they are uninsured," Lee said. "If a balance is left over, our patient advocates will work with patients, based specifically on their ability to pay, to come to a satisfactory resolution."

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