Average helicopter air ambulance charge exceeds $30K: study

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From 2017 to 2020, the average charge for a helicopter air ambulance rose 22.2 percent to $30,466, according to a new study from Fair Health, a nonprofit that collects and manages a database of privately billed health insurance claims. 

For the study, Fair Health analyzed about 35 billion healthcare claims from 2017 and 2020. 

Three other findings:

1. The average charge for an airplane air ambulance ride also rose over the study period. The average charge for airplane ambulances rose 27.6 percent from $19,210 in 2017 to $24,507 in 2020.

2. Excluding mileage charges, the average in-network negotiated rate for emergency transport via airplane was $15,624 in 2020, compared to $8,855 in 2017. The average Medicare reimbursement rose 4.7 percent to $3,216 in 2020.

3. For emergency transportation via helicopter, from 2017 to 2020 the average in-network negotiated rate rose 60.8 percent to $18,668. The average Medicare reimbursement rose 4.7 percent to $3,739.

Although the in-network rate for air ambulances rose between 2017 and 2020, many of these emergency flights are out of private health insurers' networks. One prior study conducted by the Government Accountability Office found that more than two-thirds of air ambulance flights were out of private insurers' networks. 

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