Family: Aetna agrees to fly Willow Grove baby home

Willow Grove, Pa. (WTXF) UPDATE:

The family of a baby born prematurely in Texas says their health care provider Aetna has agreed to pay to fly the baby closer to home to a hospital up the road in Abington.

Austin Pratta was born 2 months premature while his mom was on a business trip in Austin.

According to the family, they wanted him closer to home, but Aetna had denied the request twice for an air ambulance to travel.  Now, it looks like Austin could be coming home as soon as Thursday.



A family says their healthcare provider is preventing their newborn baby from coming home. Austin Pratta was just born, but it happened when his mom, Sarah, was on a business trip—1,500 miles from home. Now, the family says their healthcare provider is denying a request for Austin to transfer to a hospital in our area.

It was supposed to be a two-day long business trip. Steve Pratta’s pregnant, business executive wife Sarah was cleared by doctors to travel for work from the family’s home in Willow Grove to Austin, Texas. 

“About 12 hours into it her water broke in a hotel room downtown," Steve told FOX 29.

Their tiny miracle made a surprise entrance—2 months premature and weighing a minuscule 4 1/2 pounds in April.

“He’s up 2 pounds—he was 4 1/2 when he was born and now he’s 6 pounds 11 ounces.”

Austin came into the world a Texan even taking his name from his surprise city of birth, but he belongs in Philly. That’s what his family has been trying to tell insurance carrier Aetna for weeks. Once his doctors cleared the infant to be transferred. Steve says Aetna has twice denied to cover the air ambulance that would carry Austin the 1,500 miles home.

One of the letters addressed to the five-week-old read, “There is no evidence that your condition is unstable, and requires medical supervision and rapid transport.”

“He can’t travel on a commercial flight because can’t be in that environment," Steve said. 
"He still has a feeding tube.” He has to be transferred to a local NICU  here until we can take him home.”

His wife anchored to the Texas NICU and four-year-old big brother Lucas at home, Steve says the situation has become untenable.

On Monday night, there is good news—Sarah’s employer Excelsior Publishing has stepped up. 
They’ve agreed to fly Austin home on the air ambulance. Hopefully, it happens as soon as Wednesday, but that plan is in the works.

Aetna released the following statement:

“Aetna covers non-emergent air ambulance transfers based on medical necessity after considering the specifics of each case. We are working directly with Mr. and Mrs. Pratta to ensure they continue to receive the level of care needed.”