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Owning an emergency helicopter company must be a great investment. My personal injury law firm represents several people each year who took emergency helicopter rides. One such client was a young boy whose finger was crushed in a door. I can recall several helicopter transfers related to car crashes. Yet another was a gentleman suffering from undiagnosed meningitis who was flown from a small rural hospital to a larger university hospital. I have an open case in which a teenage girl fell and fractured her hip. Other than the meningitis case, all of the cases I can recall related to an orthopedic injury. Though the circumstances are different, one thing every flight I have seen has in common is the size of the bill from the helicopter company – always tens of thousands of dollars.

The EMS flights cost about what an average person spends on a car. A flight which takes just a few minutes costs as much as a car which will be driven for years. Of course, if the helicopter is saving a life, who cares about the cost, right? Who in their right mind is going to complain after a successful transfer of an emergent patient from an injury site to a hospital? The answer is nobody will complain. Who would dare Monday-morning quarterback the decision made during an emergency to render life-saving expediency in the transfer of a patient deemed to be in danger of dying?

The second near death experience for the patient comes several weeks later when the invoice for the helicopter service arrives and it's in the neighborhood of $40,000-$80,000. Let's celebrate the wisdom of the ownership groups that hold the equity stake in these companies. What are the risks involved? Find some financing to acquire a helicopter and trained crew. Get your permits together and strike your deals with the hospitals in a several hundred mile radius and sit back and wait for the inevitable. The inevitable will always happen - carelessness of human activity will cause serious injury such that a helicopter will be needed for quick transport of the sick and injured.

How can you lose? There aren't many helicopters out there so your competition is sparse. Also, nobody wants to second-guess first responders, and that's what these businessman really are – they’re first responders. If the people in the field think the injury is worthy of a helicopter ride who would dare criticize their decisions? So what if the bill is $40,000-$80,000? Won’t insurance cover that?
There so many different health insurance coverages these days it's almost a guarantee that a meaningful amount of the bill will be paid by a health insurance provider. Even if health insurance pays the helicopter company twenty cents on the dollar (though many pay more), a $40,000 bill will result in an $8000 payment for a 30-minute helicopter ride. In Vegas, you can take a 30-minute helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon for a few hundred dollars. If the EMS helicopter can manage two or three rides a week (more in urban areas) the company should run $16-$24,000 a week. A helicopter and crew can't cost that much - so there's plenty a room for profit. That is one heck of a ride.

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