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Air Methods Appeals BBB National Ad Division Decision

Air Ambulance Service Disagrees With Inaccurate, Misleading Advertising

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommended that Air Methods Corporation modify or discontinue certain advertising claims used for its Air Ambulance Transport services. Air Methods aims to appeal the decision, with the claims challenged by industry cohorts Global Medical Response, and Air Evac EMS. 

The prime challenges pertain to advertising claims around membership programs and fees associated with aerial medical transport. The NAD determined that three express claims of Air Methods were designed to give prospective patients the impression that their competing operators would make patient care decisions based on whether the consumer has a membership. The contentious advertising claims outlined by the NAD included "No Membership Required", "Living Shouldn't Require a Membership", and "Patient care decisions should never be made on the basis of membership".

The NAD also took issue with phrases like  "we've seen lower costs and better outcomes through our Patient Advocacy program and by working to increase insurance coverage for our services," because they felt patients would understand it as a descriptor of health instead of billing outcomes. The statements "are the funds collected from your community for memberships used to serve your community? Memberships are just a money-making scheme," were imagined to imply that competitor companies spend the majority of their membership funding on lobbying instead of community service. 

Other issues found with Air Methods' advertising surrounded their implication of out-of-pocket expense estimates, and phrasing that could give the impression of inaccurate pricing. The claim "reduce our patients' out-of-pocket expenses to an average of $200, which includes copays and deductibles," was found to convey the idea that $200 is the average initial amount for which the consumer would pay, not the average costs after the completion of settlement with the company. 

The issue will go forward between the NAD and Air Methods to be decided by the BBB's National Programs' Advertising Review Board, the appellate-level truth-in-advertising body of the organization. 

FMI: www.bbbprograms.org, www.airmethods.com

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