Air Ambulances Are Flying More Patients Than Ever, and Leaving Massive Bills Behind

June 11, 2018, Bloomberg, John Tozzi- When three-year-old West Cox’s fever hit 107 degrees, doctors called a helicopter. Hours earlier, the toddler, who’d been prescribed an antibiotic for a suspected ear infection, was at home in Princeton, West Virginia, watching cartoons and eating chips and salsa. Then, during a nap, he started to have convulsions, and his mother, Tabitha Cox, a physician’s assistant, drove him to the emergency room, stripped to his shorts to cool. Tabitha remembers the triage nurse’s eyes widening when she took West’s temperature at Princeton Community Hospital, the only medical center in the small town on the southern edge of the state. Nurses covered him in ice packs to try to keep his temperature down. During four nights in the pediatric intensive-care unit, West recovered from apparent encephalitis. Three years later, his parents are still reckoning with the aftermath of his 76-mile flight: a bill for $45,930 from for-profit helicopter operator Air Methods.

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