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  1. #1
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    Caution;  Merge;  Workers Ahead! Just in case: Helicopter Air Ambulances and you

    My fellow MTB'ers,

    I'm embarking on a documentary film about the air medical industry which is highly relevant to this community! Please take a few minutes to check out my project page, and back this worthwhile campaign. If nothing else, I'd ask that you share this project with your networks to help me spread the word far and wide!

    Of the three friends I personally know who've been air-lifted, all three were due to mountain bike crashes! Help me raise public awareness about these little-known industry issues, in order to affect positive change and ensure the safety of our HEMS crews and patients. (Who knows, it could be you or someone you love being loaded into that helicopter next time.)

    Thanks in advance.

    Just in case: Helicopter Air Ambulances and you-medevacinc_hdbanner.jpg
    -
    .And following our will and wind . . .
    . . .We'll ride the spiral to the end
    and may just go where no one's been.

  2. #2
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    Count me in as number 4. It is my only helicopter ride to date.

  3. #3
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    Huh? What are "these little-known industry issues"? I doubt very seriously one of those companies could make it servicing only bikers. It's likely about 0.00001 percent of their business.

    I'll be glad to help spread the word if people will send me some contributions too.

  4. #4
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    #5 checking in. I was air lifted to a trauma centre via copter following a mtb crash last summer
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  5. #5
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    #6 checking in. I was helicopter lifted from a small mountain town hospital in Colorado to a big city hospital in Denver. This following a motorcycle crash 2 years ago this month.
    Quote Originally Posted by NDD View Post
    Dude, I'm in Illinois. The only place anyone would come from that would say this area is hilly is Kansas.

  6. #6
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    My father had to be lifted out of the canyon after he passed away.

    Exactly how many HEMS members have been severely injured or killed in the last ten years? How many crashes in the last ten years?

  7. #7
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    Yeah, I've been airlifted on one of those nice choppers ; )

    I think part of the problem is landing in some of the remote areas to airlift injured mountain bikers or hikers can be inherently dangerous.

    I know one time when I had to airlift someone else, they had to land in uneven terrain between some trees. Looked pretty hairball. I don't remember my airlift, but know where I was, it couldn't have been easy getting in and out of there. It's a hazardous job for sure. That being said, the bill was close to $35,000 so hopefully someone got some hazard pay!

  8. #8
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    good question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Cycle Shawn View Post
    Exactly how many HEMS members have been severely injured or killed in the last ten years? How many crashes in the last ten years?
    Only counting helicopters (not fixed-wing) and only in the US, over 320 crew members have been *killed* (that doesn't count patients)... injured survivors are much higher if I recall. Not a single year has passed since these programs started without a fatality.

    Europe, Canada, Australia... they do not have the accident rate of the US.

    Taken on average, it's reported a US HEMS helicopter crashes every 40 days.

    Click the link, read over the page, watch the 5 short videos at the bottom to hear what the experts are saying about their own industry. It opens your eyes when you hear words like "immoral", "reprehensible", "extortion", "evil"...

    Decide for yourself. Back the project, if you're so inclined (please & thank you), but I'd also appreciate it if you all would share the page with your friends and family to help me spread the word.


    Medevac, Inc.
    -
    .And following our will and wind . . .
    . . .We'll ride the spiral to the end
    and may just go where no one's been.

  9. #9
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    Air ambulances are a big topic in Montana, as there are many small companies that for one reason or another seem to fall outside of coverage or find reasons that their subscribers aren't covered, leaving patients saddled with enormous bills. It will be a major issue in the upcoming legislative session.

    That said, I waved a helicopter in to respond to my girlfriend after a severe crash, and the personnel were all fantastic and did a great job of caring for her.
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by evasive View Post
    Air ambulances are a big topic in Montana, as there are many small companies that for one reason or another seem to fall outside of coverage or find reasons that their subscribers aren't covered, leaving patients saddled with enormous bills. It will be a major issue in the upcoming legislative session.

    That said, I waved a helicopter in to respond to my girlfriend after a severe crash, and the personnel were all fantastic and did a great job of caring for her.
    Yes, just to be clear, the men & women working in HEMS are not the problem... it is the policies and practices of the for-profit operators. Spoke to a long-time HEMS safety expert today who told me simply that, unfortunately, from an operators point of view (i.e. $$ bottom line), it is cheaper to deal with the cost of a crashed helicopter than spend the money to prevent the crash.

    As for the enormous bills, that's yet another part of the story...

    Just in case: Helicopter Air Ambulances and you-foulds_quote.jpg
    -
    .And following our will and wind . . .
    . . .We'll ride the spiral to the end
    and may just go where no one's been.

  11. #11
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    I must be missing something. And, I'm not trying to dismiss this. I know there are a lot of numbers. And when something goes wrong, it's very tragic. But, this type of flying is very dangerous. A huge number of people die in sanctioned motor sports events, every year, because it's dangerous. I was almost one of them. And, I know the people who do this for a living are extremely safety conscious. And, doesn't the FAA set strict rules when it comes to aircraft maintenance? I'm just not sure what could be done to make it safer. Isn't it still much safer than driving a car?

  12. #12
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    Good job!

    Those are completely reasonable assumptions to make, but they're not correct...

    In fact, I could use your example to make a point: if I want to race my car in a 1/4 mile drag, there are certain safety standards dictated by the NHRA which need to be met (depending on how fast my car is... there's a tiered system). Roll cage, fire suit, driveshaft loop, fuel shut-off, and at a certain point, fire suppression, licensing (i.e. training), etc.

    Due to a *loophole* in federal aviation law, there is no regulation for HEMS operators. So while one operator may have a $12million dollar, twin-engine helicopter with autopilot, Instrument Rated pilot (or even two pilots) and night vision goggles, another operator may be using a 30 year-old single-engine helicopter purchased for $800,000... one lesser-experienced pilot, only able (or allowed to) fly when the weather is clear. The former might carry a critical-care physician, the latter an EMT. One has crash-resistant fuel tanks, the other does not.

    The list goes on and on. Now, *if* all you care about is cost vs. profit, which do you choose as an operator? Probably not the same choice any of us would make as a would-be patient.

    Going to bed now, happy to continue this conversation as interest warrants.

    Cheers.





    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Cycle Shawn View Post
    I must be missing something. And, I'm not trying to dismiss this. I know there are a lot of numbers. And when something goes wrong, it's very tragic. But, this type of flying is very dangerous. A huge number of people die in sanctioned motor sports events, every year, because it's dangerous. I was almost one of them. And, I know the people who do this for a living are extremely safety conscious. And, doesn't the FAA set strict rules when it comes to aircraft maintenance? I'm just not sure what could be done to make it safer. Isn't it still much safer than driving a car?
    -
    .And following our will and wind . . .
    . . .We'll ride the spiral to the end
    and may just go where no one's been.

  13. #13
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    I dunno....around here there are no private operators.


    In Orange County, you either get picked up by OC Fire Authority....or the OC Fire Authority.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by gotdirt View Post
    Yes, just to be clear, the men & women working in HEMS are not the problem... it is the policies and practices of the for-profit operators. Spoke to a long-time HEMS safety expert today who told me simply that, unfortunately, from an operators point of view (i.e. $$ bottom line), it is cheaper to deal with the cost of a crashed helicopter than spend the money to prevent the crash.
    To state that it's cheaper to deal with the cost of a crashed helicopter than spend the money to prevent the crash is obviously taken from someone who fails to fully understand all of the facts within a responsible aviation operation, or is a low cost, fly by night one or two helicopter operator who is scraping by and fails to understand the subsequent losses by accepting this doctrine. Or, they fail to see the intangible benefits of proper maintenance, maintenance personnel type-training, appropriate crew type-training and discounts the costs of lost equipment and lives to the ongoing solvency of the organization.

    A major HEMS (the Federal Aviation Administration refers to these as Helicopter Air Ambulances (HAA)) organization cannot accept these irresponsible consequences and the direct impact this would place on a conscientiously accountable flight department. The liabilities alone dictate that a lot boxes need to be validated and checked PRIOR to any underwriting or insurance corporation accepting the indemnity of the HEMS.

    This is unquestionably a very complex topic with many variables that cannot be granted 'One size fits all' so as to cover all Helicopter EMS operations.
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  15. #15
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    am I missing something ?

    why would i have to know anything about it ?

    a) I am hurt, half dead, some type of thing occurred

    b) someone wants to find me, scrape me up and bag me to a hospital, it's up to them to figure all those details out

    c) I'll sue the crap out of you afterward if transport costs me one dime

    half serious half in jest

    when I plan to go really big... I pay, in advance, several thousand in evac insurance to the local or regional authorities. the more remote and inaccessible, the more coverage I have up front

  16. #16
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    I cross my fingers my CalStar membership will cover my ride if and when it comes.

  17. #17
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    I've never been airlifted. However, if my phone had been working, I would have been airlifted from the Black Canyon Trail when I nearly died from heat stroke. I had no phone reception out there so calling for help wasn't an option. I'm pretty blessed that a sometimes-dry river bed had water flowing through it on that day.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCWages View Post
    I cross my fingers my CalStar membership will cover my ride if and when it comes.
    Ths is interesting and worth taking a look at. But, what if I'm not in an area serviced by CalStar or an affiliate. I'm in Southern California. Do they have affiliates all around. What if I'm out cold and don't have a choice as to who flies me out? And, who pays if I'm flown out by a fire or Sheriff chopper? This is something I've always wondered about. Maybe now's the time to find some answers.

  19. #19
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    You have a multitude of options available, even if you didn't have the foresight to plan ahead. In addition to being able to subscribe to regional medical evacuation program, your existing healthcare package might have a provision for airborne medical evacuation. if it does not, then as a worst case, it might subsidize your transport. I can't speak for anyone's auto insurance declarations but my own, but your Personal Injury Protection addendum or rider might fill the void on evacuation expenses if so permitted. Mine operates exclusive of the automobile policy and covers me even without automobile involvement.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCWages View Post
    I cross my fingers my CalStar membership will cover my ride if and when it comes.
    I'm in the same boat with AirMedCare which has cooperative agreements with carriers in my area. It seemed like a no-brainer when I signed up with it, but there may be a ton of exclusions in the fine print.
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  21. #21
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    We had a LifeFlight copter go down in Puget Sound some years ago with the complete loss of the crew.

    I wish I could remember the cause of the crash.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  22. #22
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    Looking a little deeper...

    After exploring and looking into some of "Gotdirt's objectives and goals, I find considerable interest in his endeavor.

    While I might have come across as defending some of the industry, that was not my objective at all. It was more about taking an objective view that I do not believe that the all of the problems presented can be broad brushed across the industry as a whole.

    Over the years, I have been acquainted with several friends in this exclusive industry. In fact, I lost a friend who was at the helm of a medical evacuation helicopter that crashed. Fortunately, this was simply a re-position flight that had no patients, medical personnel or anyone else on board at the time of the crash. As a note...the crash was not the result of pilot error.

    I look forward to seeing how this documentary explores the world that we on the outside really know very little about. Good luck in your pursuits!
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  23. #23
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    I got a DeLorme InReach and paid an extra $16.95 for 12 months of air rescue expenses.

    I can't find a link at the moment but it appears in my account. It's called GEOS SAR (search and rescue). The fine print says it will pay up to $50k for any single search and rescue incident activated via the satellite device. (or 911? Can't tell.) up to $100k for two events in any 12 month period.

    Ok... Found it. See link:
    http://www.inreachdelorme.com/produc...and-rescue.php

    That helpful?

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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Cycle Shawn View Post
    Ths is interesting and worth taking a look at. But, what if I'm not in an area serviced by CalStar or an affiliate. I'm in Southern California. Do they have affiliates all around. What if I'm out cold and don't have a choice as to who flies me out? And, who pays if I'm flown out by a fire or Sheriff chopper? This is something I've always wondered about. Maybe now's the time to find some answers.
    Definitely good questions that we all should be seeking answers to and getting whatever coverage we feel comfortable with.

    For me CalStar makes sense because 95% of my riding is in coverage areas. Sure I may get picked up by someone else because I cannot vocalize a request for CalStar but I can place the membership card on my person and hope emergency personnel find it. For $50 it's just a little piece of mind that I wouldn't have without the membership.

    I'd also check with your current health plan. Helicopter service is often covered under ambulance service.

    Here is the CalStar plan:
    http://www.calstar.org/(X(1)A(jAycTr...UMMARY2015.pdf

  25. #25
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    Yes, there are membership programs out there, and yes you should absolutely read the fine print. You should also research how many operators are in your area (there are over 860 HEMS bases and 300+ operators in the US)...

    Because ultimately it is the first responder who calls for a chopper on your behalf -- so you may have a membership for Company X, but it just so happens that Company Y bought pizza for the local EMS crew... guess who gets called first in that case?
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    and may just go where no one's been.

  26. #26
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    Thank you.

    Spread the word!


    Quote Originally Posted by Cleared2land View Post
    After exploring and looking into some of "Gotdirt's objectives and goals, I find considerable interest in his endeavor.

    While I might have come across as defending some of the industry, that was not my objective at all. It was more about taking an objective view that I do not believe that the all of the problems presented can be broad brushed across the industry as a whole.

    Over the years, I have been acquainted with several friends in this exclusive industry. In fact, I lost a friend who was at the helm of a medical evacuation helicopter that crashed. Fortunately, this was simply a re-position flight that had no patients, medical personnel or anyone else on board at the time of the crash. As a note...the crash was not the result of pilot error.

    I look forward to seeing how this documentary explores the world that we on the outside really know very little about. Good luck in your pursuits!

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Cycle Shawn View Post
    Ths is interesting and worth taking a look at. But, what if I'm not in an area serviced by CalStar or an affiliate. I'm in Southern California. Do they have affiliates all around. What if I'm out cold and don't have a choice as to who flies me out? And, who pays if I'm flown out by a fire or Sheriff chopper? This is something I've always wondered about. Maybe now's the time to find some answers.
    Check with your medical insurance carrier. You may already be covered regardless of who transports. Your evidence of coverage or summary plan description documents should have information about emergency transport coverage.

    If you need to be extracted via hoist, short haul or similar method, in SCAL it will be done by the local fire or sheriff's dept. I am not aware of any of the air ambulance providers performing any kind of hoist, long line or one skid type extraction.

    If warranted give the situation, you will likely be flown directly to the nearest trauma center. Depending on the situation, you may be transferred to a ground or air ambulance for transport to a hospital with the appropriate level of care. How you are transported and by whom will not likely be a decision you make but will be made by the EMS responders on scene. You may be able to refuse treatment/transport by going "against medical advice" (AMA) if you meet certain criteria.

    These rescue/transport type flights by a public agency provider are covered by your tax dollars in most instances. As soon as you are put into a private ambulance the meter will be running.

    To the OP - good luck. HEMS is an area worth a closer look.

  28. #28
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    My first helo flight cost me $10k , the ones after that were a lot more enjoyable since I was not strapped to a backboard

  29. #29
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    Just curious... Seriously... Just curious... But what happened to each of your bikes in the airlift rescues? Were the bikes still there weeks/months later? Did you have any sort of insurance on the loss of the bike. Is it environmentally ok to just leave the bike?

    And also - do the parks in which air rescues occur have any say in the situation? Ie, park services deem it too risky but private company would take the risk. Any sort of jurisdiction issues?

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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by connolm View Post
    Just curious... Seriously... Just curious... But what happened to each of your bikes in the airlift rescues? Were the bikes still there weeks/months later? Did you have any sort of insurance on the loss of the bike. Is it environmentally ok to just leave the bike?

    And also - do the parks in which air rescues occur have any say in the situation? Ie, park services deem it too risky but private company would take the risk. Any sort of jurisdiction issues?

    Sent from my VS990 using Tapatalk
    Speaking only from my direct experience in rescues, we will look to have ground-based responders or a rider's friends bring out the bike if possible. I rode one guy's Specialized Camber 29 out not too long ago...

    A bike might be flown out with the patient if the risk is minimal, there is no medical urgency driving the situation, and there is space/ability to secure the bike in the aircraft. Most 'copters do not have a lot of extra room once you have a patient on board. Pulling the bike up as part of a hoist rescue is probably not gonna happen - I've never seen it in 20 years.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by gotdirt View Post
    Yes, there are membership programs out there, and yes you should absolutely read the fine print. You should also research how many operators are in your area (there are over 860 HEMS bases and 300+ operators in the US)...

    Because ultimately it is the first responder who calls for a chopper on your behalf -- so you may have a membership for Company X, but it just so happens that Company Y bought pizza for the local EMS crew... guess who gets called first in that case?
    This is an issue for us in Montana, as there are quite a few air ambulance operators.
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    I'm new to the forum and am learning a ton from all the people here. Finally a post that I can contribute to! I am an EMS helicopter pilot on the East Coast. I'm certainly not an expert when it comes to navigating the complexities of insurance, but I will be glad to answer any questions about HAA (Helicopter Air Ambulance). I don't intend to hijack the thread, but feel free to post your questions and I will answer them from the perspective of an insider.

  33. #33
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    Well! What are some of your crazier rescue stories?

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  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by connolm View Post
    Well! What are some of your crazier rescue stories?

    Sent from my VS990 using Tapatalk
    Yeah, come on! Let loose with the stories and the pictures.

  35. #35
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    Just flying a machine with thousands of moving parts that are urging to let go at any moment is a crazy story.
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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Cycle Shawn View Post
    Yeah, come on! Let loose with the stories and the pictures.
    The truth is that the civilian HAA is not very exciting. I am mostly just moving human cargo from one location to another. The medical crews have much more exciting stories, but their work happens in the back of the helicopter behind a curtain. I am busy doing my job and mostly block them out. I have only picked up a mountain biker once, and he had been hit by a car. He had a bone sticking out of his forearm and he was telling jokes when I was helping to load him in the aircraft. Tough SOB....
    Just in case: Helicopter Air Ambulances and you-chop.jpg

    On the other hand, Army flying is exciting! Too many stories to tell, but here are a couple of pics.

    Just in case: Helicopter Air Ambulances and you-kuwait-aa1.jpg

    Just in case: Helicopter Air Ambulances and you-kuwait-aa2.jpg

  37. #37
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    I'm trying to figure out what you're flying there? Is it an EC-135?
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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkpilot View Post
    I'm new to the forum and am learning a ton from all the people here. Finally a post that I can contribute to! I am an EMS helicopter pilot on the East Coast. I'm certainly not an expert when it comes to navigating the complexities of insurance, but I will be glad to answer any questions about HAA (Helicopter Air Ambulance). I don't intend to hijack the thread, but feel free to post your questions and I will answer them from the perspective of an insider.
    You wouldn't happen to be on the MountainCreek (NJ) to Morristown Memorial route? If so I may have been a recent passenger of yours.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cleared2land View Post
    I'm trying to figure out what you're flying there? Is it an EC-135?

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    Quote Originally Posted by RTM View Post
    You wouldn't happen to be on the MountainCreek (NJ) to Morristown Memorial route? If so I may have been a recent passenger of yours.
    No, I'm not in that area. Sorry that you had to get a ride under those circumstances. To keep it on topic, how was your experience. Do you think your condition necessitated flight? were you treated well? Did the bill get paid by insurance?

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