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Jackson Hole, WY News

AIR AMBULANCE: Who flew and what they paid

Heidi Leeds

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Phil and Heidi Leeds

Heidi and Phil Leeds

Transport details: Plane to Salt Lake City

Bill: $87,000

Insurance: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming

Air ambulance provider: Guardian Flight

(owned by Air Medical Holdings Group)

Insurance reimbursement: Full

Paid: $0

Heidi Leeds came inside from gardening during the fall of 2017 complaining of the worst headache she’d ever had.

“It became very clear after a few minutes that something was really wrong,” said her husband, Phil Leeds.

He rushed her to the emergency room at St. John’s Medical Center, where they did a CT scan. She had an aneurysm.

“They told me that we needed to get her to Salt Lake right away,” Phil Leeds said.

The couple flew in a fixed-wing aircraft to the University of Utah’s neuro critical care unit, where the blood in her brain was monitored and tested with the ability to control any potential brain spasms. She spent two weeks there before recovering 100 percent.

While awaiting bills, Phil Leeds heard warnings from acquaintances that the air transport cost would be high. He didn’t expect it would be completely covered by insurance, but it was.

“We dodged a bullet, literally and figuratively,” he said. “It’s not like you can question it. As a patient or a husband you’re just going.”

The Leeds got lucky, both with Heidi’s recovery and the air ambulance provider being in network with their insurance company. Phil Leeds has since researched deeper into the industry and knows that’s not always the case in Teton County, where multiple carriers operate.

“Boy, if that were to happen again,” he said, “we don’t want to pay.”

So Leeds started looking for air ambulance insurance. He tried to enroll with the Medical Air Services Association, which St. John’s uses to cover employees. But Leeds hit too many hurdles trying to enroll as an individual.

Now he would like to see a communitywide effort to get to the root of the problem and provide a solution for all residents.

Contact Managing Editor Rebecca Huntington at 732-7078 or rebecca@jhnewsandguide.com.

Managing Editor Rebecca Huntington has worked for newspapers across the West. She hosts a rescue podcast, The Fine Line. Her family minivan doubles as her not-so-high-tech recording studio.

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