A New York woman who wound up with a huge medical bill for a helicopter transport she never authorized had to turn to her local news station to get her insurance company to cooperate in getting the bill paid.
Lori Rozany of Brooklyn was on vacation in Pennsylvania in July 2013 when she started having chest pains. After reporting to a local emergency room, Rozany, who was born with a hole in her heart, told doctors she was having trouble breathing. Her medical records indicate she was experiencing an extremely high heart rate.
Because of her medical condition, Rozany said she was concerned and gave the Pennsylvania doctors the name of her cardiologist in New York. She says she doesn’t remember much after that.
“I remember being moved from one bed to the other side of the emergency room for a chest X-ray. And that’s all I remember,” she told NBC 4 New York.
She woke up in the care of her doctor in New York.
“I remember hearing my doctor’s voice but I thought I was dreaming and obviously thought I was in Pennsylvania,” Rozany said.
She eventually had a pacemaker installed and was released, feeling better.
Months later she received a bill from her insurer, United Healthcare Oxford, for the nearly $67,000 helicopter ride that took her from Pennsylvania to New York. The insurance company said the airlift had not been preauthorized.
Rozany appealed the bill, saying she had been unconscious when the decision for the airlift was made.
After a year of appeals and three rejections from the insurance company, Rozany turned to NBC 4 New York for help. Shortly after the news agency got involved, the company reportedly said the bill would be covered in its entirety.
“We worked with the air transport company … to reach a more agreeable rate. She will not be responsible for any additional costs,” a spokeswoman from United Healthcare Oxford said. “We will continue to push back on excessive rates like the original air transport charge that drive up costs while unfairly burdening businesses and consumers.”
But those “excessive rates” are not anything new.
NPR reported in 2011 that such bills are often crippling to patients, because insurance companies don’t have prearranged rates with many of the companies who provide air transport.
As the article points out, the key to getting the bill covered is to prove it was medically necessary. But, as was the case with Rozany, even a doctor’s testimony may not be enough to convince the insurance company to pay the bill.
And that can be devastating for a patient who can’t cover the high costs.
Such was the case with Alexandria Brooks of Florida, who told Time magazine last year that complications from pneumonia required she be transported 82 miles by helicopter. She racked up nearly $1 million in medical bills during her month-and-a-half ordeal. One of her largest bills was a $36,806 bill for the helicopter ride.
“I am grateful that I had insurance; however, it is not preventing my credit and finances from being ruined,” she said. “Such a large deductible despite huge premiums paid and the disputes between the insurance and the providers leaves one very vulnerable, insured or not.”