Patient gets billed $58k for a dubious airlift

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Reporting for WCNC-Charlotte , Stuart Watson starts with a $58,477 air ambulance-related bill and works backward to determine the bewildering market forces that conspired to push a rural stroke victim’s bill into the stratosphere.

After reading or watching his story, most will agree with Watson’s assertion that “The details of Pridmore’s flight from Piedmont Medical to MUSC raise questions about whether the intense competition for patients and their health care dollars infects the decision of where patients are treated and whether they are flown to that treatment.”

The most baffling part of the whole story? That the patient in question was initially transported to a certified stroke center by ambulance, and the flight itself was only spurred by the dire proclamations of a remote doctor speaking over a webcam.

Almost as ridiculous? That the helicopter used for the flight came from 140 miles away and had to refuel en route, when there was another chopper hanging out on standby just 20 minutes from the patient. The final indignity? The patient was stuck with the bill for all these aerial shenanigans because his insurer reckons the flight wasn’t medically necessary.

Leave a Reply