I have, for sometime, noticed the increase in the number of helicopter visits to our local hospital. Their flight pattern typically brings them over the house, so if I’m at home, I know it.

A friend of mine recently told me of a relative of theirs, who’s helicopter ride incurred a cost of $38,000. I couldn’t believe it until a lawyer friend confirmed it. He told me he has represented several clients in negotiating a settlement for these “ulta-high-priced ambulances in the sky.”

A recent article in the Roanoke Times describes a Roanoke County couple, who’s 9-year-old son fell while on a hike in Rockbridge County. He was flown to Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The bill for the flight – $36,484. Their insurance company paid $12,000, leaving them with a balance of $24,484. After weeks of negotiations in what was described as something that resembled “buying a car,” a payment of $4,400 was agreed upon to settle the account.

I’ve always been bothered by the standard hospital practice of over-charging those who can afford to pay to cover the cost of those who cannot. Ultimately, the cost becomes prohibitive for almost everyone. The article says 75 percent of patients who are transported by helicopter are “underinsured” meaning the insurance, if they have it, doesn’t cover the charge.

On a much smaller scale, my recent visit to the Emergency Room at the Martinsville Hospital resulted in me being transported by emergency vehicle to Lewis Gale Hospital in Salem. The bill came in the mail the day after I arrived home. The charge was a flat $1,200 for the vehicle, and then $25 per mile. The total was about $2,600.

My experience in talking with our elected in Washington, is that they are so far removed from the realities of healthcare, insurance, and costs for average people in struggling economies they simply don’t understand. They are ill-equipped at solving problems they know nothing about.

Until this changes, I’m not optimistic about anyone fixing healthcare in America.