OCTOBER 4, 2009 (Scottsdale, Ariz.) A summer vacation was tragically cut short for a Massachusetts man visiting Newport Beach, California. While bodysurfing on September 17, Steve Baker*, 25, was violently struck down by a wave. Baker was thrown to the ocean floor crushing his C1-C2 vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.
Upon receiving news of the accident, his entire family was devastated. The once robust Baker must now blink his eyes to communicate and relies on a ventilator to breathe. He will most likely require treatment, care and therapy for the rest of his life. Following a spinal surgery on September 21, Baker’s family contacted his insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, to schedule an air medical flight to transfer Baker to Boston Medical Center (BMC). BMC features The New England Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center, one of only 14 federally funded National Model Systems Centers in the country. The hospital is located just 25 miles from Baker’s home in Massachusetts.
“Blue Cross did not deny coverage but dragged its feet in response to the family’s request despite federal law requiring health insurance companies to respond to emergency transportation requests within 48 hours,” said Michael Ward, staff counsel at Angel Medflight.
Unable to secure a definitive answer from Blue Cross, on September 24, the frustrated family contacted Angel MedFlight, an Arizona-based air ambulance service that provides worldwide air medical transportation. Jeremy Freer, Angel MedFlight’s CEO, immediately took action. He reviewed Baker’s insurance certificate of coverage and determined that it included air medical transfers when warranted. Freer conducted medical research, conferred with Baker’s attending physician and surgeon, as well as the staff attorneys and physician at Angel MedFlight, then submitted a letter to Blue Cross on behalf of Baker. Freer went on to contact the patient’s primary care physician to coordinate the transfer and to discuss in-flight procedures and treatment.
“I don’t know all of the work that Jeremy did for us, but I know he tried his hardest to get the flight approved,” explained Baker’s father, Tom. “We just wanted to get Steve back to Boston so he could get the care he needs and be close to all of us. ”
The Angel MedFlight staff continued to contact Blue Cross providing all of the necessary documentation to expedite the approval process. Ten days after the initial request, Blue Cross finally authorized Baker’s flight to return to Massachusetts for care. However, Blue Cross precluded Angel MedFlight, the organization that was so instrumental in securing approval for the flight, from transporting Baker. Blue Cross disregarded Baker’s request to use Angel MedFlight and, instead, selected another air ambulance provider.
“I really appreciated everything that Jeremy and Angel MedFlight did for us, ” stated Tom Baker. “We were disappointed that Angel MedFlight wasn’t allowed to fly Steve to Massachusetts.”
“We’re not surprised that Blue Cross prevented us from conducting the flight,” said Freer. “We are first and foremost a patient advocate and Blue Cross has no interest in benefitting a company that fights as hard as we do for our clients. We are very pleased that Steve will be able to receive treatment at Boston Medical and we are calling this a major success. Our entire staff was moved by his tragedy and we were determined to assist knowing that we might not receive a penny. Sure, we’re a little disappointed that Blue Cross prevented us from conducting the flight so that we could have assured quality care throughout the transfer, but we are thankful that our persistence paid off and that Blue Cross was required to cover Steve’s flight home.”
For additional information please contact Kim Halloran or visit www.angelmedflight.com.
* The patient’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.