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Pangiam to invest $3.1 million in Fairfax County facility, creating 201 New Jobs



On September 22, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin today that Pangiam, an emerging technology company streamlining the travel and security industries, will invest $3.1 million to establish its global headquarters at 7950 Jones Branch Drive in Fairfax County. The company is a leading provider of facial recognition technology, cloud-based applications, and data-driven digital identity solutions to customers across the global transportation and security sectors. With this new operation, which includes the addition of 20,000 square feet, Pangiam can tap into this dynamic local workforce to meet growing domestic and international demand. The project will create 201 new jobs over the next three years.

“When innovative companies like Pangiam establish their headquarters in the Commonwealth, it strengthens our position as a leader in the technology sector and reinforces Northern Virginia’s reputation as an epicenter in the security industry,” said Governor Youngkin. “Pangiam will benefit from Fairfax County’s proximity to its target customers and an outstanding tech workforce that makes this region one of the most desirable locations for IT businesses worldwide.”

“Pangiam’s decision to officially join Virginia’s corporate roster is another boost for the Commonwealth’s thriving technology industry, which boasts the highest concentration of its workers in the United States,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “We thank the company for developing critical security software that helps keep our nation safe and creating 201 new jobs in Fairfax County.”

“We chose Virginia as our headquarters for a variety of reasons. First, it’s home. Our leadership team is either from Virginia or built their careers and families here, so it was only right to build and try to contribute to the local community when we started Pangiam,” said Pangiam’s Chief Investment Officer Tom Plofchan. “Second, northern Virginia has really become a hub for technology companies like ours. The proximity to the federal government provides a unique opportunity to access partners and resources for a critical part of our business. Finally, the human talent in Virginia is world-class. Our collaboration with Virginia’s universities has helped our team, just a handful of people with a vision less than three years ago, compete with some of the largest companies in the world for talent.”

“With safety always at the forefront of everyone’s minds, Fairfax County is pleased to have Pangiam’s headquarters in Fairfax County, the heart of America’s national security infrastructure,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “As Pangiam works to secure our ports of entry using next-generation technology, we welcome their expansion to Tysons and the hundreds of new jobs they bring.”

Pangiam was founded by a team of senior customs and security professionals with decades of collective experience in the security and aviation sectors. Through innovation, emerging technology, and the power of data analytics, Pangiam solves the security, facilitation, and operational challenges modern organizations face today. The company’s core computer vision and facial recognition technologies leverage Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to improve threat detection and response, facilitating the safe, secure, and expedited movement of people and goods worldwide. Pangiam’s concessions and investment practice leverages these technologies, strategic partnerships, and development capital to build and operate critical infrastructure such as airport terminals and ports of entry. Notable customers include DHS, the U.S. Air Force, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority to secure the project for Virginia and will support Pangiam’s job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP), which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs to support employee recruitment and training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies. VJIP is state-funded, demonstrating Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for citizens.

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Virginia wants to move more goods through Port of Virginia by rail



Cranes looming over the Port of Virginia viewed from the waterfront in Norfolk. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)


Virginia plans to increase the use of freight rail to transport goods by partnering with the Port of Virginia, according to the draft 2022 Statewide Rail Plan published on Wednesday.

Using freight services to transport goods is expected to help relieve traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions and yield annually $2.1 billion in benefits.

“The fact that we’re looking at it and talking about it and looking for ways to improve it, we think it’s a sign of strength, and it will help our overall efforts to expand,” said Joseph Harris, spokesman for the Port of Virginia.

Harris said the plan is critical due to the port’s growth and expansion of the central rail yard at Norfolk International Terminals, which is expected to process 1.1 million rail lifts annually. He said the port’s rail volume is up by 4%, or about 446,000 containers, versus 428,000 containers moved by rail during the pandemic.

Jennifer DeBruhl, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, said the previous plan included recommendations for freight investments, but the draft plan calls for transportation officials to be “much more strategic” with their partners.

With the increase in freight transportation, DeBruhl said transportation officials want to help facilitate “the growth of business in the commonwealth” and “support that economic growth with rail” while improving travel on highways.

Total rail tonnage is expected to grow by 60% between 2017 and 2045. Coal has been the primary commodity carried by rail, chemicals, and allied products.

DRPT has committed close to $50 million under the existing rail plan through its grant program.

According to the plan, Virginia is expected to invest $5.8 billion into 174 rail projects. The plan states that about $227.9 million will go to freight projects in the next six years and another $213.8 million afterward. The remaining investments will go to passenger rail projects expected to yield annually $171 million in benefits.

The plan, which is open for public comment until Oct. 27, is scheduled to be finalized in November. Comments can be submitted to

by Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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GMU joins all other Virginia public colleges and universities to freeze tuition for in-state students



On September 29, 2022,  Governor Glenn Youngkin released the following statement on George Mason University’s decision to keep tuition flat for in-state students:

“Today, George Mason University joined the 14 other public college and university boards, which serve more than a quarter-million undergraduate college students in Virginia, by pledging to keep tuition flat for in-state students. Early on in my administration, I encouraged all colleges and universities to take on this challenge, and I am pleased that now all of Virginia’s students will have the opportunity to pursue their higher education at every public college, university, and community college in the Commonwealth free from tuition hike fears. I’m grateful to the boards and the presidents of these institutions; this is a critical step in easing the burden on Virginia’s families and students during a time of high inflation and cost of living.”

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State of emergency ahead of Ian and more Va. headlines



The state Capitol. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

• Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency to prepare for heavy rain from Hurricane Ian.—Virginian-Pilot

• Roanoke’s Democratic mayor says the state got “soft on crime” under Democratic control and wants his city to consider tougher policies like stop-and-frisk to reduce gun violence. “We’ve got to get more punitive.”—Roanoke Rambler

• “Youngkin and his national ambitions straddle the ‘big lie’ divide.”—Washington Post

• Abortion and the economy are the issues driving Virginia’s closely watched congressional matchup between Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger and Republican Yesli Vega.—Washington Post

• The University of Richmond removed the name of a slave owner, T.C. Williams, from its law school.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Mattaponi tribal leaders are working to bring back the Algonquin language.—Tidewater Review

• The prosecution of a Chesterfield County detective accused of altering search warrants hit a snag when a judge ruled “malfeasance in office” isn’t actually a crime in Virginia.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Accreditor’s loss of federal recognition puts three Virginia schools at risk



Unless they find another accreditor within 18 months, three higher education institutions in Virginia could lose their ability to offer federal aid after a recent decision terminated the federal government’s recognition of their accrediting agency.

This August, the U.S. Department of Education terminated the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools certification after it “failed to demonstrate it could effectively evaluate, monitor and enforce quality standards for schools.”

ACICS had certified dozens of institutions nationally, including Virginia campuses of the University of North America, Stratford University, Fairfax University of America, and California University of Management and Sciences.

The impact of ACICS’ loss of recognition in Virginia “will not be very large, but three schools will need to find another accreditor,” wrote Joe DeFilippo, director of academic affairs for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, in an email.

Those institutions include the for-profit University of North America and the nonprofits Fairfax University of America and California University of Management and Science – Virginia.

None of those schools responded to requests for comment.

Accreditation ensures that institutions of higher education are meeting acceptable levels of quality. Crucially, the certification also allows students at such institutions to receive federal student aid.

Schools previously accredited by ACICS have been placed on provisional certification until they find another accreditor. Institutions that fail to find one within 18 months will lose their accreditation and ability to accept federal aid.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten wrote in her August decision that the agency failed to provide evidence that a few of its accreditation evaluators were trained, ignored its own standards while granting accreditation, and showed ineffectiveness in monitoring institutions.

One of the issues cited by Marten was ACICS’ failure to uncover problems with distance education programs at Fairfax University of America (then called Virginia International University) that were later discovered by SCHEV.

Stratford closure

The ACICS decision received renewed attention this week after Stratford University, a for-profit school that has been operating two campuses in Virginia in Woodbridge and Alexandria, announced it will cease operations on Friday, a week before the 10-week term was scheduled to end.

In an email sent to students obtained by the Virginia Mercury, Stratford President Richard Shurtz cited the decertification of its accreditor as a reason for its closure.

Stratford has also been struggling for several years to keep its accreditation from ACICS. Last year, it closed three of its Virginia campuses in Virginia Beach, Newport News and Glen Allen.

Shurtz said in his email the decertification of ACICS and conditions imposed on the school by the Department of Education, including a prohibition on new enrollments, made it “impossible to continue in operation.”

“Without new students, we would not have the sufficient cash flow to operate,” he wrote. “We will be forced to close operations at the end of this term at all locations.”

The Department of Education requires ACICS-accredited institutions to submit their plans for helping students complete their academic programs elsewhere within 30 days.

Schools must also disclose to students the potential loss of federal student aid eligibility, cease additions of new programs that qualify for federal student aid, and limit enrollment of new students who wouldn’t complete their program before the end of the 18-month provisional period.

Stratford told students that some other accredited schools will accept the university’s credits on a case-by-case basis.

However, students told the Mercury that not all their credits are transferable. Stratford officials scheduled an in-person meeting with nursing students and Chamberlain University College of Nursing on Wednesday, but the meeting was canceled.

Students said they are also concerned about running out of federal aid and applying for loans.

“I just don’t know what my next steps are, and I do not know if everything I have done is basically null and void,” said Amethyst Whitaker, a nursing student at Stratford University who split time between the Alexandria and Woodbridge campuses. “I think a lot of people are in that same state of mind because a lot of people have sacrificed a lot to be in school and to do well.”

ACICS said in a statement that it will “continue to provide oversight and quality assurance, including monitoring financial stability and student achievement, to these institutions until they either find another accreditor and/or voluntarily withdraw from the former accrediting agency.”

Ongoing problems

The federal government’s concerns with ACICS date back to at least 2016, when the accreditor first lost its recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. It was later reinstated by then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, but concerns were revived under Joe Biden’s administration in 2021.

“ACICS has had problems for several years, so it’s not surprising that the U.S. Department of Education removed their recognition,” said DeFilippo in his email.

ACICS said in its statement that over the past several years, it has made changes to enhance the rigor and quality of its accreditation process, including efforts to raise average student retention and graduation rates.

But the number of schools it oversees has fallen. In 2016, ACICS accredited 237 schools with 361,000 students, according to the U.S. Department of Education. By this year, its total number of accredited institutions had dropped to 44.

One of the institutions it no longer accredits is Reagan National University, which USA Today found in 2018 had no students, faculty or physical presence.

by Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia State Police welcomes new executive leadership



Virginia State Police Superintendent, Colonel Gary T. Settle, is proud to announce the appointments of three new executive staff leaders, in the wake of the retirement of the Department’s first female deputy superintendent. Effective Aug. 19, 2022, Colonel Settle appointed Lieutenant Colonel Kirk S. Marlowe Deputy Superintendent. Effective Aug. 30, 2022, Major Tricia W. Powers, Bureau of Administrative and Support Services (BASS) Deputy Director, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed to BASS Director. Effective Sept. 25, 2022, Captain Robert C. Holland was promoted to Major and appointed to the position of BASS Deputy Director.

Effective Oct. 1, 2022, Lieutenant Colonel Tracy S. Russillo concludes 33 years of service with the Virginia State Police. Russillo achieved many “firsts” in her advancement through the Department ranks. She was not only the first female Deputy Superintendent, but also the first female to serve as a Bureau Director and a Bureau Deputy Director. As Deputy Superintendent, Russillo oversaw all three VSP Bureaus – BASS, Bureau of Field Operations (BFO) and Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) – as well as the Office of Internal Affairs and Executive Protective Unit.

Russillo was appointed to the position of Deputy Superintendent Aug. 5, 2016. A native of Fredericksburg, she joined the Department May 16, 1989. Her first patrol assignments as a trooper were in Spotsylvania and Culpeper counties, which are within the Culpeper Division. As she progressed through the VSP ranks, Russillo served as an Academy sergeant in Richmond, area commander of the Culpeper Division’s Area 13 Office in Winchester and field lieutenant in the Culpeper Division. In 2008, she achieved the rank of captain serving as the Fairfax Division commander in the Northern Virginia region. Russillo was promoted to major in 2011 following her appointment as BASS Deputy Director, where she remained until her 2016 appointment to Deputy Superintendent.

Promoted to the position of Deputy Superintendent is Lieutenant Colonel Kirk S. Marlowe. Marlowe has served as BASS Director since Sept. 10, 2016. As the Director of BASS, Marlowe oversaw the Department’s Communications, Criminal Justice Information Services, Human Resources, Information Technology, Property and Finance, and Training divisions. BASS also includes the Office of Legal Affairs.

Prior to serving as the BASS Director, Marlowe served as the BASS Deputy Director upon his appointment to that position in Dec. 25, 2015, from division commander of the High Tech Crimes Division (HTCD) within BCI. He began his career with state police Aug. 1, 1988, and spent seven years in the Richmond Division as a trooper and special agent before he was promoted to Academy sergeant in 1996. Over the years with state police, he has supervised the Violent Crimes Unit and Staff Inspection Section as a first sergeant. In 2004, Marlowe was promoted to lieutenant of the Richmond BCI Field Office and later transferred to the Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Interdiction (CCI) Unit. He achieved the rank of captain in 2009 and oversaw the Support Services Division before being assigned to establish and supervise the new HTCD. Marlowe is a graduate of the University of Richmond with a bachelor’s degree in human resource management. He also graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security with a master’s degree in security studies and was a valedictorian of the Administrative Officer’s Graduate Course at the Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville.

Prior to her appointment to BASS Director, Lieutenant Colonel Tricia W. Powers served as BASS Deputy Director since her appointment to that position Aug. 10, 2019. Powers graduated from the VSP Academy in 1994 with the 90th Basic Session. Her first patrol assignment as a new trooper was in the Culpeper Division’s Area 13 Office in Winchester. In 1997, she was promoted to special agent and advanced to the rank of first sergeant working in general investigations and drug enforcement in the Culpeper and Chesapeake BCI Field Offices. She returned to uniform as a first sergeant in 2010 as the commander of the Chesapeake Division’s Area 32 office in Norfolk/Virginia Beach. In 2012, Powers was promoted to lieutenant in the Richmond Division and transferred to the CJIS Division a year later.  In 2016, she achieved the rank of captain and served as the CJIS Division Commander until her appointment to major in BASS. A native of Luray, Va., Powers is a 2012 graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Bridgewater College and a master of criminal justice degree from Troy State University.

Promoted to the rank of major and to the position of BASS Deputy Director is Captain Robert C. Holland. Holland has served as the Training Officer at the VSP Academy since 2017. He graduated from the Academy in 2000 as a member of the 100th Basic Session. Holland’s first patrol assignment was in the Richmond Division’s Area 8 Office in Henrico County. He was promoted to sergeant in 2006 as a supervisor in the CJIS Division’s Sex Offender Investigative Unit. In 2010, he advanced to first sergeant within the CJIS Division and then transferred to BCI’s High Tech Crimes Division. In 2015, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and served the next seven years at the VSP Academy in that position and then as captain. Holland, a native of Powhatan County, is a graduate of Longwood College with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, with a concentration in criminal justice.

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Shattered dreams and bills in the millions: losing a baby in America



The day after his 8-month-old baby died, Kingsley Raspe opened the mail and found he had been sent to collections for her care.

That notice involved a paltry sum, $26.50 — absurd, really, given he’d previously been told he owed $2.5 million for treatment of his newborn’s congenital heart defect and other disorders.

Raspe and his wife, Maddie, had endured watching doctors crack open the chest of their pigtailed daughter, Sterling, whom they called “sweet Sterly gurl.” The health team performed so many other procedures. But it couldn’t keep her — or her parents’ dreams for her — alive.

The bills lived on for them, as they do for many other families of premature and very sick infants who don’t survive.

“What a lasting tribute to the entire experience,” Kingsley said angrily. “The process was just so heartless.”

More than 300,000 U.S. families have infants who require advanced medical attention in newborn intensive care units every year. Some babies stay for months, quickly generating astronomical fees for highly specialized surgeries and round-the-clock care. The services are delivered, and in U.S. health care, billing follows. But for the smaller fraction of families whose children die, the burden can be too much to bear.

A patchwork of convoluted Medicaid-qualification rules seek to defray these kinds of bills for very sick children. But policies differ in each state, and many parents — especially those, like the Raspes, who have commercial insurance — don’t know to apply or think they won’t qualify.

Also, because many crises that befall premature or very sick babies are in-the-moment emergencies, there may not be time for the preapprovals that insurers often require for expensive interventions. That leaves parents in crisis — or in mourning — tasked with fighting with insurers to have treatment covered.

Three families detailed for KHN how medical bills compounded their suffering during a time when they were just trying to process their loss.

Bennett Markow

As the hospital in Reno, Nevada was converting a parking garage into a COVID-19 unit in November 2020, Bennett Markow came into the world four months early. He weighed less than a pound. His care team loved to sing “Bennie and the Jets” to him as a nod to the jet ventilator keeping his tiny lungs working.

On Jan. 20, 2021, when Bennett was 2 months old, his parents were told he needed to go to UC Davis Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, California, for specialized care that could keep him from going blind. The transfer team would be there in an hour. And the Nevada care team said that because it was an emergency, the family needn’t worry about their insurance or the method of transportation.

Bennett’s eye problem ended up being less severe than the doctors had feared. And Crissa Markow and her husband, A.J., were billed for the plane ride from REACH Air Medical Services, which turned out to be out of network. Jason Sorrick, vice president of government relations for REACH’s parent company, Global Medical Response, said the ride happened during a “lapse” in Bennett’s Medicaid coverage.

The Markows said there was no lapse. They hadn’t applied yet because they thought they wouldn’t qualify — the family is middle-class, and Bennett was on Crissa’s insurance. They did not know they should until a social worker at UC Davis gave them more information — after the flight.

Crissa Markow said her heart dropped to her toes when she realized she was being billed over $71,000, more than she makes in a year as a social worker. (The No Surprises Act, which aims to eliminate surprise billing, could have prevented some of the family’s headaches — but Bennett was born before it went into effect this year.)

Although Crissa was used to working toward solutions, the billing quagmires she found herself in while juggling Bennett’s care, her job, her other son, and the travel logistics to stay with Bennett about 2½ hours away from her home were overwhelming. Crissa estimates she spent six to eight hours a week dealing with medical bills to keep them from being sent to collections — which still happened.

Bennett died last July after doctors said his lungs could not fight anymore. The Markows spent their bereavement leave battling with insurers and other billing agencies.

Finally, Crissa called REACH, the air transport company, and said: “Look, my son died. I just want to be able to grieve, I want to focus on that. Dealing with this bill is traumatic. It’s a reminder every day I shouldn’t have to be fighting this.”

By October, the Markows had settled the bill with REACH on the condition that they not disclose the terms. Sorrick said that the company reaches agreements based on the financial and personal situations of each patient and their family and that the company’s patient advocates had talked to Crissa Markow 17 times.

“If every settlement amount was disclosed publicly, then those rates become the expectation of all patients and insurance providers,” Sorrick said. “Ultimately, that would lead to all patients wanting to pay below cost, making our services unsustainable.”

Crissa Markow’s employer-provided insurance paid $6.5 million for Bennett’s care, not including what was covered by Medicaid. The Markows paid roughly $6,500 out-of-pocket to hospitals and doctors on top of their REACH settlement. But it was not those amounts — which the couple would have happily paid to save their son — but the endless harassment and the hours spent on the phone that haunt them.

“I just wanted to be with Bennett; that’s all I wanted to do,” Crissa Markow said. “And I just spent hours on these phone calls.”

Jack Shickel

Jack Shickel was born with stunning silver hair and hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Even though he was surrounded by wires and tubes, the nurses at UVA Children’s Hospital would whisper to Jessica and her husband, Isaac, that they had a truly “cute” baby.

But his congenital disorder meant the left side of his heart never fully developed. Each year in the U.S., over a thousand babies are born with the syndrome.

After two surgeries, Jack’s heart could not pump enough blood on its own. He made it 35 days.

Weeks after his death, when the Shickels were trying to muddle through life without him in Harrisonburg, Virginia, they called the hospital billing department about two confusing bills. They were then told the full cost of his care was $3.4 million.

“I laughed and then cried,” Jessica said. “He was worth every penny to us, but that’s basically $100,000 a day.”

Bills from out-of-network labs and other prior approval notifications continued to overwhelm their mailbox. Eventually, they figured out how to get Medicaid. The Shickels ended up paying only $470.26.

Jessica got the final bills in March, seven months after Jack’s death.

She noted that all of this was happening as the University of Virginia Health System said it was rolling back its aggressive billing practices after a KHN investigation found the prestigious university hospital was putting liens on people’s homes to recoup medical debt.

UVA Health spokesperson Eric Swensen expressed condolences to the Shickel family and added that the health system works to help patients navigate the “complex process” of evaluating financial assistance, including Medicaid coverage.

After KHN reached out for comment, the Shickels got a call from UVA saying that the hospital was refunding their payment.

The hospital care team had given the family a pamphlet about what to do when grieving, but a more useful one, Jessica said, would have been titled “How Do You Deal With Medical Bills After Your Child Has Died?”

Sterling Raspe

Kingsley Raspe likes to say Sterling was “one special little lady” — not only did she have the same congenital heart defect as Jack Shickel, but she was also diagnosed with Kabuki syndrome, a rare disorder that can severely affect development. Sterling also had hearing loss, spinal cord issues, and a compromised immune system.

An explanation of benefits from the Raspes’ commercial insurance indicated the couple would need to pay $2.5 million for Sterling’s care — an amount so large the numbers didn’t all fit in the column. Even Kingsley’s suspicion that the $2.5 million charge was likely erroneous — in large part or in whole — didn’t erase the sheer panic he felt when he saw the number.

A computer programmer making $90,000 a year, Kingsley had decent insurance. He frantically Googled “medical bankruptcy.”

Sterling had been denied Medicaid, which is available to children with complex medical problems in some states. Kingsley had filed an application for the government insurance, which had to be submitted by mail from the family home in Gary, Indiana. In doing so, he broke the strict protocols on COVID exposure set early in the pandemic at the Ronald McDonald charity house near the Illinois hospital where Sterling was being treated and jeopardized his ability to stay there.

In rejecting the application, Indiana cited an income threshold and other technical reasons.

Everyone kept telling Kingsley and Maddie to get divorced so Sterling would qualify for Medicaid. But that wasn’t an option for Kingsley, a British citizen who is in the U.S. on a green card after meeting Maddie on Tinder.

Ultimately, Kingsley’s insurer revised the faulty notice that he owed $2.5 million. The family was told the mistake had occurred because Sterling’s initial hospital stay and surgeries had not been preapproved, although Kingsley said the heart defect was discovered halfway through the pregnancy, making surgery inevitable.

Throughout Sterling’s life, Kingsley did his programming job at his daughter’s bedside, in her hospital room. As a web developer, he created visualizations that break down Sterling’s expensive care — it helped him make sense of it all. But he cries when he remembers those days.

He hates that Sterling’s life can be reduced to a 2-inch stack of printed-out medical bills and the phone calls he still must endure from errant billers.

Despite receiving a plethora of other bills in the tens of thousands, he and his wife eventually paid their $4,000 deductible, along with a smattering of smaller charges and fees for equipment rentals that weren’t covered. In April, Maddie gave birth to a son, Wren, and Kingsley said he knows Sterling served as her brother’s guardian angel.

“My daughter passed away. I’m not unscathed, but I’m not in financial ruin. The same can’t be said for every family,” he said. “How lucky am I? I went through the worst thing imaginable, and I consider myself lucky — what kind of weird, messed-up logic is that?”

Navigating the NICU

Contact your insurance company to talk through your NICU stay costs, including what is covered and what is not. If your baby’s not already on your plan, make sure to add them.

Speak to a social worker immediately about applying for Medicaid or the Supplemental Security Income program, known as SSI. If your child qualifies, it can dramatically reduce your personal cost for a child with extensive medical bills.

The March of Dimes offers a “My NICU Baby” app designed to help you wade through the overwhelming experience. The nonprofit says the app can help you learn about caring for your baby in the NICU and at home, as well as monitor your baby’s progress, manage your own health, and keep track of your to-do list and questions.

If particular insurers or bills are confusing, reach out to your state insurance office. All states offer consumer support, and some states have dedicated advocates who can help you.

Kingsley Raspe also compiled advice for other families navigating neonatal intensive care unit stays for their babies.

Bill of the Month is a crowdsourced investigation by KHN and NPR that dissects and explains medical bills. Do you have an interesting medical bill you want to share with us? Tell us about it!

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

Subscribe to KHN’s free Morning Briefing.

by Lauren Weber, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Fall Bazaar will be held Friday, Sept 30th, from 4:30 – 6:30 pm, and Saturday, October 1st, from 8 am – 2 pm, in the Front Royal United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. Baked goods, jewelry[...]
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Sep 30 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
8:00 am Fall Bazaar @ FRUMC Fellowship Hall
Fall Bazaar @ FRUMC Fellowship Hall
Oct 1 @ 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Fall Bazaar @ FRUMC Fellowship Hall
Fall Bazaar will be held Saturday, October 1st, from 8 am – 2 pm, in the Front Royal United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. Baked goods, jewelry and accessories, Silent Auction, holiday decorations, and apple dumplings[...]
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 1 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. During Fall Farm Days’ Nature Weekend, get in touch with nature and explore a managed landscape rich in biodiversity. Discover native flora and fauna, learn the craft of beekeeping, the importance of various[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 1 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
5:00 pm WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser @ Bowling Green Country Club North
WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser @ Bowling Green Country Club North
Oct 1 @ 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser @ Bowling Green Country Club North
WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser – An Evening of Caring & Sharing Come out to support WATTS homeless shelter (Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter) and help us fundraise for our upcoming overnight shelter season! A fun[...]
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 2 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. During Fall Farm Days’ Nature Weekend, get in touch with nature and explore a managed landscape rich in biodiversity. Discover native flora and fauna, learn the craft of beekeeping, the importance of various[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 2 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 5 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]