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How Mercy Flight helps WNYers pay in emergencies

Posted at 11:29 AM, Mar 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-17 15:56:17-04

Air ambulances rushed 400,000 Americans to the hospital in 2015.

In many cases, they saved lives. However, an ABC News investigation found they can also leave families with sky-high bills. That even has some patients facing debt collectors and lawsuits.

The story had many wondering about western New York's air ambulance service.

7 Eyewitness News sat down with Mercy Flight's Vice President of Finance on Wednesday. Scott Wooton told us, as a not-for-profit, Mercy Flight does not have any shareholders and is not a publicly traded company.

Mercy Flight does bill insurance companies. Wooton said that an average flight costs between $7,000 and $8,000.

Sometimes, the costs have fallen on patients. However, Wooton added that Mercy Flight has created a charity care program to help cut the financial burden for those in need.

"You really feel for the patients, the patients will tell you that they are at a time of difficulty," Wooton said. "To add a financial hardship on top of that is something Mercy Flight, we couldn't sleep at night doing that kind of thing."

Wooton added that if a patient is unable to pay, Mercy Flight would never taken them to court or put a collections agency on their case.