Air Methods Corp. hit with sixth lawsuit claiming price gouging

An Air Methods helicopter in California in February. (Photo by Alan Wilson, Creative Commons)

An Air Methods helicopter in California in February. (Photo by Alan Wilson, Creative Commons)

Centennial-based Air Methods Corp., the nation’s largest air ambulance company, was hit last week with the sixth lawsuit since 2015 alleging that it overcharges patients.

In a complaint filed Nov. 4, a Pennsylvania man injured in a car accident claims that publicly traded Air Methods Corp. billed him 400 percent more than what competitors would have charged for the same flight.

And, he says, Air Methods has exploited thousands of patients like him.

“Instead of charging patients a uniform, customary, and reasonable rate, Defendants charge outrageous prices that bear no reasonable relationship to the services rendered or what is customarily charged for the services,” said the complaint in U.S. district court, which also names a related company, Rocky Mountain Holdings, as a defendant.

Air Methods Corp. lately has wrestled in court with patients who refuse to pay steep bills, even as the company’s revenue has surged 64 percent in five years, to $1.09 billion in 2015, according to its most recent annual report.

Since April 2015, Air Methods has faced at least six putative class actions from patients, according to a tally of court cases mentioned in prior media reports and court records reviewed by BusinessDen. In a putative class action, a single plaintiff or group of plaintiffs claim to represent a class of people that has been injured and ask a judge to certify that status.

In the lawsuit filed in Colorado last week, Air Methods allegedly billed the plaintiff, Jeremy Scarlett, nearly $47,000 for a 30-mile flight to a Pennsylvania hospital. Scarlett claims he was also asked to sign a document transferring his right to insurance payouts to Air Methods and compelling him to pay the difference out of pocket.

Scarlett is being represented by attorneys Mitchell Baker in Denver, Jonathan Shub of Kohn Swift & Graf in Philadelphia, and Troy M. Frederick of Marcus & Mack in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Scarlett’s legal counsel did not respond to messages seeking comment.

In another proposed class action filed in October, an Alabama woman received a $52,000 invoice from Air Methods after the operator transported her, unconscious, from the scene of a car accident. Her insurance reimbursed her for less than $9,500.

Bills in the air ambulance industry have skyrocketed in recent years.

The Colorado lawsuit claims that the average bill from Air Methods tripled from $13,198 in 2007 to $40,766 in 2014.

And a New York Times investigation found that air ambulance operators have raised their billing rates and expanded their fleets, even as insurers cut the share of ambulance charges they cover, leaving patients on the hook for the remaining bill.

Air Methods, which did not respond to messages seeking comment, has responded to past media reports by pointing out its costs to maintain its fleet and pay employees like pilots. It also blames private and public insurers for failing to cover patients’ bills and says it is “essentially losing money” on 70 percent of patients it transports, who cannot cover Air Methods’ costs.

The air ambulance service of Centura Health, Flight For Life Colorado, leases helicopters from Air Methods. Flight For Life Colorado helicopter pilots and mechanics are Air Methods employees.

The company is headquartered in 116,000 square feet of office and hangar space in Centennial Airport. As of the end of last year, it operated 467 aircraft.

air methods helicopter

An Air Methods helicopter in California in February. (Photo by Alan Wilson, Creative Commons)

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Joe Smoe
Joe Smoe
4 years ago

I’m just wondering what the current status is of the lawsuit? Any updates would be appreciated.
Thanks

Virginia
Virginia
4 years ago

Currently battling with this same company. Half an hour flight for my two week old son with RSV. $56,000 bill. Insurance covered only $13,000 stating that this was the in-network share for the “reasonable” rate for this service. We are left with a $43,000 bill. Air Methods directs us back to our insurance company. Anyone know the outcome of these lawsuits? They pay their pilots and administrative staff normal or even low salaries. Hmmm, wonder who’s is benefitting off of this price gouging scheme? I see the CEO made over three million last year….hmmm….wonder who the greedy party is?

Jane
Jane
4 years ago

I am also battleing with the same company. This was a 8 minute flight. Which my girlfriend died the next day. They charged 46,105.80. Her insurance company. (Horizon) refused to pay at first. Then after many phone calls they finally changed the claim as a medical emergency. They paid 40,728.50. Even though I thought this was a outrageous amount to over pay this rip off helicopter company. But this was not enough for this greedy company. I’ve recently received a bill from Air Methods for 5,377.30. And to sign letters to complain to her health insurance company for more money.… Read more »

T J
T J
4 years ago

I too am battling this company. My husband was given NO choice but to be transported from one hospital to another (18 miles away) due to bleeding in his brain. We received a bill from Rocky Mountain/Air Methods for over $43,000 of which our insurance paid only $6,000. They are constantly harassing us and pressuring for full payment of the remaining outstanding balance. There is absolutely NO justification for billing someone $43,000 for an 18 mile trip. My husband asked to be transported via ground ambulance and his request was denied! These people have a license to steal is the… Read more »

MALIK ALI
MALIK ALI
4 years ago

my brother in law was in auto accident and same co send billed him for 47010.30 and he is still fighting them. He cannot buy house or car or have any credit to do anything because of their unjustified bill.somone with 4 kids can get his life pretty messed up.thanks to greedy companies.

Cong
Cong
4 years ago

This is b.s. I am also battling this company about their ridiculous bill that I received. Mine was $32k after my insurance paid them $4400, plus $9600 interest after I’ve already made a couple of payments. Wtf?

Edison Farmer
Edison Farmer
4 years ago

I was billed for one flight for 59999 dollars for 30 minute flight that is out rediouslas ambulane would have charged a third of that

Gary
Gary
4 years ago

Also battling with this company. 30 minute flight, my wife died and $48,000.00 bill. They REFUSE to bill the insurance company, but have placed a lien against the estate. Unethical at best, but claim they are not an ambulance, but an airline and cannot be state regulated thanks to a 1978 Airline Deregulation Act.

I’d love to know the outcome of these suits

Christopher Patterson
Christopher Patterson
3 years ago

I was billed 59,999 for a thirty minute fight in one of their planes. My father is a life flight helicopter pilot for IHC. They would have charged me less than 9,000. But they didn’t have an aircraft available for me. I told him how much my bill was and he was shocked and pissed. It’s much cheaper to fly and maintain an airplane than a helicopter. Air Methods also pays their pilots very little. They keep lying. Does anyone know an attorney I can contact?

Jenny
Jenny
3 years ago
Reply to  T J

We are also dealing with this. What ended up happening in your situation with this outrageous bill?

Paula Almond
Paula Almond
3 years ago

I am also dealing with a 44k bill. This is after my insurance paid 20k. I am refusing to even talk to them because I don’t trust them. What are my options?

Beth
Beth
3 years ago

My mom waited at one hospital almost 2 hours waiting for a flight?! No one knew about it. They transferred her to another hospital…could have ridden in ambulance to a closer hospital which was less than 30 min