Air Medicine saves lives.
And every life is worth saving.
This is what it takes to be ready to save a life 24/7/365.
It costs approximately $3 million per year for an air medical base to be operationally ready 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For the most part, the costs are fixed, whether the aircraft is called to respond to a patient in need or not. Costs are the same whether a base is located in a heavily populated area (high flight volume) or a more rural, less populated area (low flight volume).
- 24/7-READY AIRCRAFT
Air medical aircraft must be ready to launch at a moment’s notice.
- AVIATION AND CLINICAL CREW
A finely tuned logistical team of experienced pilots, flight support crew, and dispatchers, as well as highly trained medical crew members, typically a flight nurse and flight paramedic team, stand ready to deploy immediately.
- SAFETY & QUALITY
Air medical providers invest hundreds of millions of dollars in programs and equipment designed to ensure the safest environment possible for our patients, clinicians, and aircrew members (e.g., flight data monitors, auto-pilot technology, night vision goggle systems, operational control centers, etcetera).
Air medical providers are required to obtain and maintain a wide variety of certifications from two of the most heavily regulated industries in the U.S. – aviation (FAA) and medicine (stringent medical certifications vary from state to state.)
Air medical aircraft must be well maintained to meet strict safety requirements, but air medical providers must also properly maintain medical equipment and flight support equipment.
Training is a regulatory responsibility. Air medical providers must provide training and continuing education to clinicians, aircrew and support staff.
Air medical transport, while not appropriate for every patient or situation, is a highly-effective medical intervention that delivers clinical expertise and rapid transport to definitive care in a timely manner, and could be difference between a patient being released home after treatment or remaining in expensive, extended care for a long period of time.
Air medical transport is requested by the local emergency medical services (EMS) system, typically a physician or medically-trained first responder who makes the determination based upon the severity of the accident and the extent of the patient’s illness or injuries. When a physician or first-responder calls, there is a life at stake and air medical transport providers respond with the highest quality care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.
More than 60% of air medical transports are underpaid or outright unpaid for their services.
For every ten patients flown, two may pay nothing at all (uninsured) and five are covered by government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, neither of which pay close to the cost of an average transport (underinsured).
- Government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid have government imposed reimbursement levels that pay well below costs.
- That leaves private insurance to absorb the cost of readiness.
- The direct costs billed to consumers is dependent upon how much a commercial insurance provider is willing to pay to air medical providers to protect their beneficiary.
- Commercial insurance reimbursements can vary widely, not only on what they reimburse to air medical providers, but also how much of the financial burden is passed on to the patient.
- Due to insurance provider consolidation, it is increasingly difficult for air medical providers to negotiate appropriate payment for services, particularly in a region that only offers one insurance option.
- Increasingly, commercial insurers do not offer patients adequate protection – financially or medically.
Increasingly, commercial insurers do not cover air ambulance transports in a way that protects their beneficiaries.
Bottom line: It is to the consumers’ advantage for all insurance programs, including government programs, to reimburse air medical providers at an adequate amount to cover the cost of providing service. We encourage consumers to contact their health insurance providers to determine how much of the burden their insurance provider is willing to share should an air ambulance transport ever be needed.