7 On Your Side: $50k in medical helicopter bills hit accident victim

Where it happens (WABC) -- If you get hurt and aren't in charge of making decisions on how your life's going to be saved, who pays the bill? The charges for one medical transport were huge, almost a thousand dollars per mile flown, a $50,000 bill, had the insurance company saying, no way.

The couple feels lucky to be alive. Lance Schneider and his fiancee, Veronica Stang, were riding on his motorcycle when they T-boned a van, suddenly sending his Harley sideways into a guardrail.

"(I) shattered my ankle, 12 broken ribs, collar bone, shoulder blade, collapsed lung," Schneider said.

"I broke my femur, my hip, and a pelvis," Stang said.

They were on a rural road in Orange County, at least an hour's drive from the nearest level 1 trauma center.

"First we were put into an ambulance, then to a helicopter," Schneider said.

Lance, unconscious from his severe trauma, was medivaced first. Veronica was told she'd be air-lifted next.

"I was scared to death, I didn't want to go," Stang said.

The helicopter got her to Westchester Medical Center which is 53 miles away. She was there within minutes, faster than any ambulance could have gotten her there, but then she got hit with a bill from Air Methods, $51,000 for the transport.

Veronica says her insurance company, Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield told her the transport by air was not "medically necessary" so they refused to pay the the chopper bill.

That was until 7 On Your Side got in touch with the insurance company.

A year after the chopper accident, the big chopper bill was finally lifted.

Corporate Statements:

Air Methods: "Air Methods provides lifesaving care to more than 100,000 people annually, and continuously strives to improve the critical services we provide to patients in need. 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. We understand that every patient's individual and financial circumstances are unique, and our team is dedicated to partnering with every one of them as they navigate through the post-flight and critical care process. In Ms. Stang's case, we are very pleased to have been able to work with her insurance company to ensure the air medical services we provided were covered under her plan."

Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield: "As a not-for-profit health insurer, we strive to deliver great customer service, protect our members from unfair out-of-network charges, and handle claims accurately 100% of the time. After reviewing her complete case file, it was plain that Ms. Stang should not be held responsible. Anyone in need of care in a medical emergency should follow the advice of first responders and medical professionals. We have since paid this bill in order to prevent her from any balance billing. It is appalling that some for-profit providers exploit medical emergencies to boost their bottom line. Ultimately, medical price gouging drives up the cost of insurance for everyone." null
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