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Air ambulance costs more than doubled between 2007 and 2018

As the use of air ambulances declined from 2008-17, the cost of an air ambulance trip more than doubled, according to a Health Care Cost Institute analysis published Nov. 7. 

Analysts identified air ambulance trips in the HCCI dataset using current procedural terminology codesi and defined them as plane or helicopter ambulance same-day services for a patient. The 2008-17 sample included more than 100,000 air ambulance trips for patients under 65 with employer-sponsored insurance.

The analysis found a 14.3 percent decrease in helicopter ambulance trips, from 34.2 trips per 100,000 people in 2008 to 29.3 trips in 2017. The use of plane ambulances remained stable at 4 trips per 100,000 people.

The average price of a helicopter ambulance trip increased 144 percent, from $11,414 in 2008 to $27,894 in 2017. For plane trips, the cost rose 166 percent, from $15,684 in 2008 to $41,674 in 2017.

The analysis recognized a large variation in the cost of air ambulance trips. In 2017, the 10th percentile of prices for helicopter trips was $6,514 and the 90th percentile was $52,038. For 2017 plane ambulance trips, the 10th percentile was $6,642 and the 90th percentile was $79,350.  

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