Why do I still owe thousands when I have insurance?

Informed consent is essential in all aspects of life, especially when it comes to matters of personal health and welfare. Unfortunately, Washington patients in dire need of medical care are often pushed into signing agreements they have not read and are in no state to understand. Some do not even remember ever signing anything. But when this happens, the insurance company may only pay a fraction of the cost, leaving the patient with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. But just because someone receives a bill does not necessarily mean that he or she is responsible for payment.

For example, an out-of-state man who was billed $48,934 for an air ambulance ride may not actually be responsible for that much. In July 2019, a stray dog ran out into traffic on the highway and knocked him off of his motorcycle. He broke three ribs, an elbow and his neck. Emergency responders then transported him to a hospital via air ambulance, a move that was an estimated 30 minutes faster than by ground. While in transit, he was given the drug fentanyl for his pain before signing a form consenting to treatment and billing.

His situation is not uncommon. People often arrive at hospital emergency rooms feeling vulnerable and afraid, unable to fully understand or consent to certain things. Patients cannot even give full informed consent to financial responsibility when they are never given the necessary billing details.

Another issue is what the ride actually cost versus what the company billed. Patients who receive shockingly high bills after receiving emergency care may not realize that they are not obligated to pay anything more than market value. According to the air ambulance company, it only costs around $12,000 for an average flight, and his insurance company had already paid $7,000 of that.

People in Washington expect their insurance policies to actually cover their medical care, but far too often, these companies push that responsibility off onto policyholders. The average person who receives a sky-high medical bill might not realize that he or she has other options, especially if the insurance company is not willing to help. In this situation, it may be better to reach out to an attorney who is experienced at dealing with insurance companies and hospital bills.

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