The scenery is pristine as you and your outfit rumble up the mountains. The engine of your ATVs is the only sound that interrupts the peace of the moment. Led by your guide, your group embarks up a steep path knowing that the trail will be rough, but the view on the other side will be magnificent. As you make your way up the face of the mountain, you come across a particularly rough patch. You're not sure if you should keep going with your ATVs or hike the rest of the way. Suddenly, your partner gives their ATV a little too much gas and they roll.
You and your guide rush over to them, and you quickly realize that their injuries are serious. The only way out from this far away from civilization is to call an air ambulance. Tense minutes pass until you hear rotors in the distance. Your partner leaves packed away to be delivered to the hospital, and in return arrives an air ambulance bill for tens of thousands of dollars.
The stories are real
Montana's remote wilderness is your best friend as an adventure seeker, but it is your worst enemy in the event of an injury. While the scenery may provide a welcome escape from the world, it is not as friendly when you need urgent care. According to the Associated Press, Montanans who are taken to the hospital via air ambulance have received bills as high as $90,000 for the service. These costs can make for an additional burden in an already difficult situation.
The Montana state legislature passed a pair of bills into law in 2017 in an attempt to curb the costs of air ambulances due to the uncertainty surrounding their use and the high cost to people in need of critical care. Lawmakers say that insurance companies are not required to disclose the costs of air ambulances and may use a variety of companies that charge different rates, leaving the consumer in the dark until a notice arrives in the mail.
Is there any room for transparency?
The new state laws create an independent dispute resolution process for people facing large air ambulance bills and forbids air ambulance companies from submitting unpaid bills to credit agencies. Still, you and your family may not be completely off the hook for air ambulance bills, which could require you to seek other legal processes to hold the wrongful parties responsible for your injuries and seek compensation for costs.
While an air ambulance may be your only option in an emergency situation, injured patients and their families should take advantage of every legal opportunity to cover the costs.