If you are sick or injured, you may need to be transported by air to a specific hospital or other facility. The complaint for this class action alleges that Air Methods Corporation and Rocky Mountain Holdings, LLC set prices for air transportation of patients that are four times what a fair price would be.
Patients don’t choose to travel by air, whether from the scene of an accident or from one hospital to another. First responders and medical personnel make the choice. Patients may be unconscious, in severe distress, or medicated, and they do not have the ability to negotiate or give informed consent. In fact, the contracts at issue for some of the patients in this case do not even include a specific price.
The air ambulance companies say the Airline Deregulation Act of 1976 gives them the right to set their own prices. If the patient is insured, the insurance will pay at least a portion of the price. However, the complaint says that air ambulance companies have refused to negotiate agreed rates with insurance companies, so that the whole bill gets paid. Instead, they charge whatever they want and then bill anything the insurance company won’t pay to the patient.
The complaint claims that the companies bill patients “an amount that vastly exceeds both the cost to provide the transport and the fair market value of the transport.” It claims that executives of the companies “admitted in a television interview that the ‘fair charge’ for [their] services would be, on average, around $12,000, but [they] charge four times that amount and more…” For the plaintiffs in this case, the average charge was more than $47,000, nearly four times the admitted “fair charge.”
What happens if patients cannot pay the amount they are billed? According to the complaints, the companies start collection efforts against them or file state court breach of contract claims and other suits. Some patients have their personal or business bank accounts garnished to pay the excessive charges.
Some of the plaintiffs in this case have signed contracts; others have none. The complaint asks that the court determine the “legal obligation, if any, with respect to payment” and “the proper price” for those with contracts. For those without, it asks the court to find no obligation to pay.
Two classes have been proposed for this action.