When a drunk driver struck Jodi Lopresto's car head-on on April 30, 2014, authorities called a medical helicopter to take her 25 miles to an Oklahoma City hospital.
Lopresto was still in the hospital's intensive care unit with life-threatening injuries, less than 24 hours since the crash, when the helicopter company began calling about the airlift bill, reports KOFR. The company, Air Methods, wanted almost $33,000 from Lopresto after her private insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, agreed to pay nearly $60,000 toward the balance.
"They want to jump and take advantage of you as soon as they can because that's when you're at your weakest," Lopresto said.
Lopresto had solid medical coverage, paid her bills on time, and her car insurance included an extra policy to cover costs if she was struck by an uninsured driver.
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"It's just not right," said Noble McIntyre, Lopresto's attorney. "They're going after a victim for $32,000 she doesn't have for an injury she didn't cause for a 25 mile helicopter trip. It's just unconscionable."
Lopresto said she won't pay Air Methods, and has joined a class action lawsuit against the airlift company.
This isn't the first time the medical airlift industry made the news.
Albert Strubhar of Perkins, Oklahoma, told KFOR he was presented with a nearly $33,000 bill from Air Methods as well. His wife, Miriam, was airlifted 15 miles from a regional hospital to Oklahoma City because of serious complications from giving birth.
"I never imagined it would be that much," Strubhar said.
The family was able to settle with Air Methods for $8,000 with help from church members, who donated money to help them with their medical bills.
KFOR's investigation found that even after insurance paid a portion of the bill, airlift patients were billed for the remaining $20,000 to $40,000.
Christina Brodsly, a spokeswoman for Air Methods, said in a statement that the company is willing to work with patients who "can demonstrate a diminished ability to pay."
"Everyone deserves access to lifesaving care," Brodsly said. "And much like an emergency room, Air Methods cares for those in need regardless of the their ability to pay. That means we sometimes don’t receive payment for our services, and the payments we receive for Medicare or Medicaid patients don’t come close to covering the actual cost we incur for providing our service."