Patient billed $470K for medical flight to Massachusetts neurosurgeon: 5 highlights

Mackenzie Garrity -   Print  |

Kristina Cunningham suffered a stroke and was left with two blood clots in the base of her brain. To receive proper care, emergency medical technicians put her on a medical flight to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, according to Kaiser Health News.

Here are five highlights:

1. The neurosurgeon and Ms. Cunningham's insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield deemed the airlift medically necessary. Physicians arranged the patient to fly via an Angel MedFlight Learjet.

2. Because her insurer deemed it medically necessary, Ms. Cunningham assumed the bill would be covered. However, Angel MedFlight billed her $474,725. The bill breaks down to $275 per mile.

3. Massachusetts General Hospital is located about an hour from where Ms. Cunningham was found by EMTs. Other physicians contemplated sending her to St. Louis, Chicago or Dallas.

4. It is not unique to be hit with large bills after being airlifted to a hospital, according to the Association of Air Medical Services. This is because patients with private insurance plans pay higher rates to make up for the company's money losses from transporting other patients.

5. CareFirst initially paid $14,304, leaving Ms. Cunningham to pay $460,420. Now the insurer is working with Angel MedFlight to negotiate the bill. CareFirst proposed paying $70,864, which is about one-seventh of the total bill.

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