It’s too early to say who will get the bill for a Benewah County Jail inmate’s Life Flight transport, sources say.
Life Flight was dispatched two times in two days June 16 and 17 in relation to the case of Randall Ohrt, who is accused of the attempted murder of his wife. The first, when the victim in the case was transported to Kootenai Health for treatment for severe beatings; the second, when the suspect slit his wrists when contacted by a deputy the next day.
Ohrt has been accused of attempted murder, second-degree kidnapping, aggravated domestic battery and attempted strangulation. Charging documents said he held his wife against her will for several days, torturing her and threatening her life on several occasions. He was placed under arrest following his recovery, and is being held in the Benewah County Jail on a $500,000 bond.
However, questions remain as to who will pay the bill for the air ambulance flights.
Life Flight is an air ambulance company that provides quick-response medical transport for patients throughout northern Idaho and beyond.
Dominic Pomponio, Life Flight’s regional director for the Inland Northwest region, said flights from St. Maries to Coeur d’Alene generally start at $20,000 per flight. However, he said, there are a number of factors which could increase the total cost of the flight.
However, Mr. Pomponio said Life Flight is a not-for-profit company, and that they work with clients and insurance companies to mitigate the cost paid by patients.
“There are some factors that play into it,” Mr. Pomponio said. “If the party has a membership, we bill for the out-of-pocket expenses and write off the remainder. We also work with Blue Cross of Idaho to ensure that patients in that network are only required to pay co-pay.”
He also said the company has an extensive charity program, and encouraged any party with difficulty paying the cost to reach out to them for assistance.
While options exist to mitigate costs for the flights, it is still unclear who will be given the bill for each.
Benewah County Auditor Deanna Bramblett said an air ambulance bill could be paid for through the county’s indigent account – a balance of cash the county budgets each year to help residents pay for medical services, rent and other life expenses when they are not able. The current cash balance of the account is $301,000, and the county has spent $91,000 of that account to date on all expenses.
While the county can help qualified residents pay for Life Flight transportation, Ms. Bramblett said the county has never been directly billed by Life Flight for an inmate transfer.
“I can’t remember a time when it’s happened,” she said. “I know we haven’t received a bill yet; it’s on the provider to send those out.”
Mr. Pomponio said he, too, was uncertain with the protocol in Benewah County’s case. In some jurisdictions, he said, inmate transport is generally billed to the controlling entity. As Ohrt is in the county jail, it is possible the cost could fall on the county’s indigent fund; however, he did not give a definitive answer.