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Action 9 investigates sky-high air ambulance rates


Date: October 24, 2016
Source: WFTV 9 ABC


A Rocklege family thought it had to be a huge mistake when an air ambulance service billed their son $60,000 for a flight they claim lasted 45 minutes. Family members said when they were threatened with collections, they Action 9's Todd Ulrich to help them get answers.

At Wuesthoff Medical Center in Rockledge, an 18-year-old was hospitalized with an illness doctors could not diagnose, Lori Bodrick told Action 9. His parents transferred him by air ambulance to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

“At that point we were grateful that our son was being moved to a specialty hospital,” said Bodrick.

She and her husband,Terris, want to protect their son's privacy, but they are fighting his battle.

A month after the chopper flight Air Methods, sent a bill to their son for $60,000.

“That was a helicopter ride that took 45 minutes and the total charge was $60,000,” saidBodrick.

Their son was covered by their health insurance and it paid Air Methods $10,000. According to Florida Blue that's all he had to pay.

“Our insurance company has paid them $10,000, and we owe nothing,” said Terris Bodrick.

But within weeks Air Methods sent their son a demand for the $50,000 balance or face a collection agency.

“It's just not right. It's just not right,” said Lori Bodrick.

Action 9 first investigated Air Methods two years ago, the company that serves hospitals across Central Florida.

Two consumers, including Ashlynd Anderson, showed Action 9 their medical chopper bills that cost $30,000.

Florida just passed a law banning out-of-network excessive charges for emergency care. But Action 9 found out that won't stop sky-high bills from air ambulance companies because they're protected by federal airline deregulation barring state interference with rates.

“It's ridiculous how much they charge people,” said Anderson.

Air Methods told Ulrich that it's reviewing the youngerBodrick's bill, and defended its charges as the cost of providing emergency care since insurance companies don't pay their fair share.

“We needed to do something about this,” said Terris Bodrick.

Since Action 9 contacted Air Methods, it has offered their son a special consideration application to lower his bill because of his finances.

Action 9 has already helped two other patients avoid big bills when they were threatened with collections.

Air Methods statement:

“In today’s reality, many insurance companies are doing the bare minimum and expecting the rest of us, especially their members, to shoulder the burden. Even with the strain that health insurance industry practices have placed on both patients and care providers, at Air Methods we continuously strive to meet the challenges and pressures facing our industry with the goal of improving service and care for our patients. When we are called into an emergent situation and asked to save a life, we deploy without regard to a patient’s ability to pay as we believe everyone deserves access to lifesaving care. We understand that every patient's individual and financial circumstances are unique and, in Mr. Bodrick’s case, our team has provided a special consideration application to help reduce his financial responsibility within our legal parameters.”