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Christian Bolling was only doing what boys do. During a hike in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with his parents and sister, the 9 year old found some boulders to climb. But he lost his footing and fell down a rocky 20-foot drop, fracturing bones in his left leg, his wrist, both sides of his nose and his skull.
A rescue squad carried him out of the woods and a helicopter flew him to a pediatric hospital trauma unit in Roanoke 34 miles away.
Thankfully, as Kaiser Health News reports, Christian’s story has a happy ending. He recovered. His medical care was covered by his parent’s insurance.
But there was one exception: The air ambulance company was not part of the family’s health plan network. The company, Med-Trans, billed the family $36,000 for the transport, which was more than the cost of his hospitalization, scans and cast combined.
“When you’re in that moment, you’re only thinking about the life of your child,” Christian’s mother, Cynthia Bolling, told Kaiser Health News. “I know that I am being taken advantage of. It’s just wrong.”
While air ambulances transport more than 550,000 patients a year, the high cost of their services are not yet addressed in legislation pending in Congress to protect American consumers from excessive and unexpected medical bills.
A recent report by the federal Government Accountability Office found approximately two-thirds of air ambulance transports for patients with private insurance were outside the health plan’s network. Generally, insurance pays only a portion of an out-of-network service, which means patients and their families are responsible for the rest.
The Bolling family’s health plan covered about a third of Christian’s air ambulance bill. The family settled with Med Trans by agreeing to pay $4,400 out-of-pocket.
Have you or someone you love been hit by a high air ambulance bill? Do you think Congress should make sure consumers are protected from these excessive costs? Sign the Voices for Affordable Health petition and send a message to your representatives in Washington, D.C.