JONESVILLE, Michigan – A veteran was shocked to learn he was facing a nearly $ 23,000 bill for a medical flight when told that Veterans Affairs would not cover the cost.
Steve Miller served in the Navy. He spent a total of nine years in full active service and an additional three years in reserve.
“I just liked the camaraderie of everyone around me,” Miller said. “It was just exciting for me.”
In October 2019, Miller mowed his lawn when he was feeling uncomfortable. He had just parked the lawnmower in the shed when he felt a strange pressure on his chest that he described as strange.
He thought he just needed some rest, but soon fell on all fours on the floor.
“It finally hurt so much that I said, ‘No, we’re going,'” Miller said.
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Miller’s girlfriend first took him to Hillsdale Hospital, about 15 minutes from his home. The small, rural hospital could not meet his medical needs and suggested that he be transferred to another health system.
He was then flown to Ascension Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, where he underwent emergency surgery.
“The next day the doctor said I had a massive heart attack; if I had gone in the ambulance, I probably wouldn’t have made it, so you know it’s an emergency.
About a month later, he received his bills in the mail. The VA paid almost all of his hospitalization costs. He then received a bill from Michigan Medicine for the flight that was over $ 23,000 when he originally received the bill.
He applied to the VA to present the five-digit invoice. He never received another invoice or any correspondence regarding the expenses until over a year later he received another invoice stating that the VA had paid all expenses.
“I was really stunned when I first opened it and saw this bill and I was like, ‘Wait a minute. It’s been over a year,'” said Miller.
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The second bill he received was for $ 22,613.00.
He called the VA to see if there was a mistake, but was told that he was not eligible for reimbursement. VA staff explained to him that he did not qualify because he had not lifted off from a VA facility and because it was not related to combat-related injuries, among other things.
“That’s unacceptable. No vet wants to hear you’re not viable. Basically that’s what I heard,” Miller said.
We asked the VA who qualified and why Miller’s editions were rejected. The Ann Arbor VA made the following statement:
“We understand how worrying this must be for this veteran. VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System reached out to him and is looking for ways to help with his billing problem.
Unfortunately, the Emergency Transportation Act only grants service veterans or veterans who meet low income limits the right to transportation.
Since he doesn’t qualify, Miller says he needs to find a way to pay the bill himself. If he pays it off gradually, he reckons it could take about 15 years based on what he can afford.
“It’s just a surprise that they cover all medical but no ridesharing. Now how does a person get to those emergency medical offices with no ridesharing?”
Like the VA, most private insurance companies do not cover medical flights. Even if Miller had a private insurance company as the primary insurance company, the flight would likely not be covered that route either.
Steve started a GoFundMe to pay for his medical expenses and create a bucket for other veterans to cover those similar expenses. If you want to donate, click on HERE.
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