Transport details: Helicopter to Idaho Falls
Insurance: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Idaho
Air ambulance provider: Air Methods
Insurance reimbursement: $19,000
Paid: $0; had Air Methods membership
Mike Connolly, 63, was using climbing skins to ski up Maverick in Grand Teton National Park in 2017 when he started to feel chest pains. He was having a heart attack. Luckily, he and his wife had signed up for a family membership of $75 a year with the air ambulance company Air Methods in 2016.
“Fortuitously, we thought because we play all the time,” Connolly trailed off.
His wife, Julie, first called Air Methods. They told her to hang up and call 911. Connolly went into cardiac arrest, stopped breathing and had no pulse.
A Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter delivered rescuers and a defibrillator to the east face of Maverick and plucked Connolly off the mountain. Rescuers transferred him from the Search and Rescue helicopter to a waiting Air Methods helicopter, which flew him to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. At the hospital he went into cardiac arrest again. He spent a week there between intensive care and cardiac care wards.
Connolly described feeling “flabbergasted” when he received a call from Air Methods only a few days after returning home with a whopper of a bill. Despite his membership, Air Methods told him to file a protest claim with his insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Idaho. Connolly described half a dozen aggressive calls before Air Methods eventually left him alone.
“They were trying to use me to get Blue Cross to pay them more money,” he said.
Now he tries to educate everyone he meets about air ambulances and the various traps patients can fall into. Ten months after the incident he went back to the same spot on Maverick with his wife and ski partner.
“It was pretty emotional,” Connolly said. “We had a beer on the spot and skied down.”