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Jackson Hole, WY News

AIR AMBULANCE: Who flew and what they paid

Tilli Rossetti

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Tilli Rossetti

Tilli Rossetti

Transport details: Plane to Salt Lake City

Bill: Roughly $20,000

Insurance: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming

Air ambulance provider: Intermountain Life Flight

Insurance reimbursement: Roughly $6,500

Paid: Roughly $13,500

Tilli Rossetti told her mother, Miga Rossetti, she had a sore throat in February 2009. By the next morning the 6-year-old couldn’t turn her head.

“Her neck was sort of frozen,” Miga Rossetti said.

Local doctors diagnosed the problem as an infected cyst. They told Rossetti that antibiotics wouldn’t take care of it and that her daughter needed to have surgery to drain it. For the best care — child-specific anesthesia and possibly a second operation — Jackson doctors recommended Tilli go to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City and booked an air ambulance flight.

“As the mother of a 6-year-old I was too worried to ask any good questions,” Rossetti said.

Her daughter didn’t have surgery until the next day. That’s when Rossetti began questioning the decision.

“She was not hooked up to a single thing,” Rossetti said. “We just rode sitting up like passengers. Why couldn’t we have gone first class on the next Delta flight?”

Medical professionals told Rossetti her daughter could have stopped breathing if the cyst had grown much bigger. Tilli needed two surgeries, and her mother was pleased with the medical care she received.

But her insurance company agreed to pay just a third of the total air ambulance bill, leaving the family on the hook for about $13,500.

According to the fine print of a policy that she’d never completely read, the insurance company could decide what was a “reasonable and customary” charge. Rossetti disagrees with how the insurance company defined “reasonable and customary.”

“I did some research, and there was not a single [air ambulance] flight you could take for $6,500,” Rossetti said. “We wrote Blue Cross Blue Shield and complained. That’s so far off base, that’s deception. We decided it was worth it to take them to small claims court because we wanted to make a point.”

In small claims court individuals represent themselves without lawyers. Ultimately Rossetti lost.

“We weren’t super hopeful,” she said, “but we did it anyway.”

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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