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Arizona woman facing $14k in bills after medical flight she didn't need

“The ER doctor at Chandler comes in and says, ‘Why are you here? And why were you helicoptered?’” Amy Maher said. She's now facing more than $14,000 in bills.

MARICOPA, Ariz. — In a playroom filled with toys for a one-year-old boy going on two years old, Amy Maher watches her son play.

“He surprised us,” Maher said.

Maher said her son, Bradley, is the first boy in a long line of girl-cousins and her first baby earth side.

“We had a bumpy road leading up to him, given we had had a miscarriage before him,” Maher said.

Earlier this year, Maher was pregnant again. “We have been trying for, I want to say, seven months,” Maher said.

But the unexpected this time was the bills Maher’s now getting in the mail.

“We have these mounds of bills that we’re looking at, and no baby,” Maher said.

Back in March 2022, Maher said she started feeling pains. Maher said she went to Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa and her OB-GYN. Her doctor was the one to confirm she was likely having a miscarriage.

But the pains continued.

Maher said she woke up around 1 a.m. one morning in pain different than what she’d felt before.

“I remember telling my husband, something's wrong, something's wrong. This is not like the last miscarriage,” Maher said.

Maher went back to Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa, where Maher said they did another ultrasound.

“The next thing I know, the doctor’s coming in and telling me it’s an ectopic pregnancy and you need to have surgery,” Maher said.

Maher was airlifted via helicopter to Chandler Regional Medical Center.

“The ER doctor at Chandler comes in and says, ‘Why are you here? And why were you helicoptered?’” Maher said.

Maher said the doctor told her all she needed was a shot from her OB-GYN. Maher said she went home after the hospital did some bloodwork, and she got the shot from her doctor.

Then the bills started coming in. Before insurance, all the bills totaled $74,257.17. After insurance, Maher still owes at least $14,840.10.

“Healthcare prices in our system are standout among other industrialized nations. You know, both, particularly hospital prices, are kind of the biggest driver of our high health care spending in this country,” Loren Adler, associate director of USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy.

Adler reviewed Maher’s bills.

“In this specific case where the patient didn't have, you know, maybe that advice on what was actually needed, and sort of leads again to one of these things where the system can be unfair to many people,” Maher said.

While unfair is one word, Maher uses another.

“It’s corrupt,” Maher said. “It’s corrupt. That’s the best way to say it.”

Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center told 12 News in an email they’re required by law to accept suspected ectopic pregnancy transfers.

Air Methods, the air ambulance company that took Maher from Maricopa to Chandler refused to discuss Maher’s $50,000 bill.

“This needs to be known that this is not okay,” Maher said. “You can’t charge these outrageous fees.”

Exceptional Healthcare did not respond to 12 News’ multiple and repeated attempts to contact them regarding Maher’s experience.

While Maher’s expecting more bills, the impacts go beyond her bank account.

“We are still trying to grow our family,” Maher said. “But now, with all these bills, I just don’t see how that’s possible anymore.”

UPDATE: Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa sent a statement to 12News Wednesday. While Exceptional would not discuss Maher’s specific case, citing HIPAA concerns, the statement said it’s physicians can determine to transport patients via ground ambulance or air ambulance in emergency situations, adding in-part:  

“Our state-of-the-art facility offers an in-house lab, pharmacy, CT, X-Ray, and Ultrasound imaging suites. Our facility does not provide labor and delivery services, nor do we perform surgeries currently. Exceptional's medical team has reviewed the case in question and has affirmed that all protocols were followed and adhered to ensure the health and safety of the patient.”

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