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Woman dies before air ambulance arrives, still charged $25k

Posted at 9:50 PM, May 06, 2016

Imagine losing a loved one suddenly, and while trying to deal with the terrible loss, you get a bill for $25,000.

April Breck called Indianapolis's RTV6 after seeing the station's investigation about air ambulances overcharging for transporting people.

In Breck's case, an air ambulance was called for her mother – but she passed away before it arrived on scene.

Breck's mother, 64-year-old Sheila Breck, was driving her to work when an ambulance speeding to a call smashed into their SUV.

"It turns out that an ambulance going to a different call hit her in my car going 85 miles per hour, so as to her injuries … I mean, the list of injuries are page after page after page," Breck said.

Rescue crews working to pull Sheila out of the car called for an air ambulance. But the chopper, operated by PHI Medical, never actually transported Sheila because when it arrived her heart had already stopped.

"So then about a week later, I was trying to deal with all of the insurance issues, car insurance issues, and PHI, the air ambulance company, started calling me and telling me she had this bill for $25,000," Breck said.

The $25,000 bill was for the company's "base rate."

The bill amounted to $18,000 more than the bills from the ER doctor, hospital and ground ambulance combined.

PHI Medical told Call 6 it wasn't a bill – just a statement. But it included an "amount enclosed" box and a place to put a credit card.

"Sure looks like a bill to me," Breck said. And each month, she gets another one.

PHI offered this explanation about their base rate charge:

"If our helicopter and crew have been called to a scene to provide critical care services to a patient in need, this means we have incurred costs on our end to provide this specialized care."

PHI said the base rate can vary depending on the location or the community where they are called.