AAMS is pleased to announce the publication of the Air Medical Services Cost Study Report, conducted by the independent research firm Xcenda LLC. AAMS commissioned the study in response to an evident need for reputable, independent research, specific to air medical transport, to quantify the costs associated with providing emergent air medical transports. Further, the study examines the appropriateness of the 2002 Medicare rate-setting methodology for air medical services and current payment adequacy. The resulting report provides independent substantiation of actual costs to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Members of Congress.
Through various forms of communication (industry conferences, newsletters, and other means), Xcenda targeted recruitment from air medical providers billing Medicare in 2014, the most current billing information publicly available at the time of this study. A detailed cost data collection tool was distributed to providers who volunteered to participate. The study group included fixed-wing, rotor-wing, for-profit, non-profit, independent and hospital-based providers. Cost data were aggregated and analyzed at a per-transport and per-base level. Differences between program types, tax status, size, and geographic location were also examined. The study’s respondents represent 51% of all air medical bases nationwide and captured 46% of air medical services billed to Medicare.
Highlights of the findings include:
- The median reported cost of an emergent air medical transport is $10,199;
- Medicare payment rates cover only 59% of actual costs on average;
- Over 1/3 of respondents reported negative margins for emergent air medical services;
- The percentage of the U.S. population covered by air medical services, within a 15-to-20-minute response area, has grown from 71.2% in 2003 to 86.4% in 2016;
- Air medical services improve access to level 1 trauma centers for 87 million Americans who would not be able to receive emergent care in a timely manner otherwise.
“A study such as this is long overdue,” says Rick Sherlock, AAMS President & CEO. “It has been AAMS’ position for some time that Medicare payments do not adequately match costs. The results of the cost study have validated our stance. The data provides a baseline for transport providers industry-wide regardless of business model.”