JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Air ambulances are rides that can save your life, but the cost of it could be life-changing. Several folks on the First Coast said they know firsthand.

"It is outrageous that they can charge this amount of money," Pat Slogar said.

Pat Slogar and his wife, Denise, were hit with a $60,000 bill, insurance paid $9,600 and they paid $9,800 to settle the debt.

In April, Alan Espinosa had a similar experience. His wife, Karen Espinosa had suffered a stroke.

"She's got total right side paralysis and both expressive and receptive Aphasia, loss of language," he said.

She met the Florida criteria for a Stroke Alert, which meant she had to be transported by the fastest means available to a stroke center.

"It was a 22-minute flight by air ambulance if we had tried to take by ambulance it would have been an hour," he said.

Alan Espinosa said following emergency surgery, his wife was home in four days and back to work in 10 days. Then they were hit with a hefty air ambulance bill

"The total bill was $53,734 and some change," he said.

Their insurance would only pay $10,000, but the veteran paramedic knew Florida law protects patients who meet a Stroke Alert from those sky-high air ambulance bills

"it was a six-month long process," he said. "We finally got the insurance company to pay the entire bill."

Alan Espinosa is convinced that very few consumers know the protection is there; albeit limited.
He said it applies to a number of trauma type illnesses.

"Florida has a trauma alert system which applies to trauma... We also have a STEMI Alert
system, which[applies to] victims of heart attack, which says the same thing: transport by the fastest available means," he said.

He said not even his insurance company knew about the requirement. Insurance companies have routinely denied claims saying the air ambulance was "not medically necessary."

Alan Espinosa said working with a patient advocate from Air Methods, one of the leading air medical services, he was able to prove to his insurance company that they had it wrong.

His advice is very simple: If you meet one of the mentioned health alert conditions, do not accept your insurance denials.

If you have the knowledge of Florida's Standard of Care for such illnesses, you have the power to win.

"I would encourage everybody to look into that small part of their insurance policy to see what the insurer's responsibility and what the insured responsibility is, in the vent that they need air medical transport," he said.