CFA Investigates: Dispute over Medical Helicopter Ride

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Ice fishing at 11 Mile Reservoir is one of Howie Schommer's passions. He says he thought nothing of heading up to the scenic spot last February until he started feeling ill. He called his son, who in turn dialed 911.

Howie says two ambulance rides later he was at Penrose Main.
Howie explains, "Everybody treated me great. I was at Penrose Hospital... released within 40 hours."

Howie says he made a great recovery and had no problems til the bills arrived.
That's when he noticed this one from Centura Health and St. Anthony's Hospital in Denver for a helicopter transport for more than $16,000.

$16,000 his insurance company had already paid.
Howie tells me, "I said look we did not get a helicopter ride. I called my agent and he got on it."

Howie says for months he, his wife, and his insurance agent tried to get the mistake corrected, but to no avail.

He says he couldn't believe it .
No one seemed to care or want to fix the error.

Howie says, "They said it did not matter. All their paperwork was in line with what they requested and they had paid the bill for $16,000."

Howie made a Call for Action and I called and emailed Centura Health.
Just hours later... Howie got this voice mail from Flight for Life Colorado.

The recording says, "It was absolutely our error. We are correcting it."

Howie was told the charge had been removed from his bill and his insurance company would be credited the $16,603.87.

The recording goes on to say, "You were transported by ambulance and mistakenly billed for a helicopter flight which should not have happened and we've traced it back and discovered where the flaw was."

Howie says, "I waited almost a year before I contacted you. As soon as you made the call, then there was action taken."

Howie says having the charge removed didn't put a dime in his pocket, but he's still trying to find out if his insurance rates went up because of that original charge.

He says Assurant Health increased his rates by 100%, quite a change from the year before when rates only went up 25%.

Howie says, "I haven't gotten one word from Assurant other than the quotes were double what they were last year."

We asked Assurant Health if Howie's heart attack was the reason for the increase... all I got was this email response.

It says Assurant won't talk specifics. A spokesperson says several factors can account for new rates like the rising cost of prescription drugs and medical services as well as an increase in the use of services by members.

Howie's now shopping around.

So what can we all learn from this?

If you wind up in the hospital... know your rights.

Medical Billing Advocates of America... a leading expert in detecting overcharges and mistakes on medical bills tells me... 8 out of 10 medical bills contain errors.

8 out of 10.

So after you're hospitalized... ask for an itemized statement. This allows you to look at every single item for which you and your insurance company were charged.

Don't be afraid to question any suspicious charge. It could be a procedure that never was done or medicine you never requested.

Finally call your insurance company to appeal any denial the company makes.

It's your money and your right to question those charges.

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