Wondering Woman

A Walk through the Process of Availing a Medical Flight

Availing a medical flight can be quite intimidating, especially considering the stress of caring for a loved one who is already in distress. Here, we bring you a typical medical flight trip and how things usually pan out. In fact, we walk you through the entire process.

What Happens When You Contact a Medical Flight?

When you call a medical flight company, you will be greeted by customer support first who would collect certain basic information and then transfer you to a case manager or flight coordinator. Here pertinent information related to the medical flight would be relayed to you. This is the time that you can raise any initial concerns such as average flight cost, flight timing, distance, and accompanying the patient. You will be asked to confirm payment arrangement for the medical flight. Feel free to take help of the treating physician and hospital staff if you are not able to answer questions relating to the patients condition or ailment.

The Medical Flight Coordination Begins

The information gathered from you will be relayed to the medical director of the air ambulance provider. The director will, in turn, get in touch with the attending physician. The attending physician would lay down the medical necessities of the patient so that the flight can be prepared accordingly. This includes qualified staff as well as medical equipment, and also information regarding transfer to an appropriate medical facility.

On the Day of Medical Flight

The medical flight company will get in touch with all those involved in the transport of the patient, including the hospital staff. The ground ambulance would take the patient up to the medical flight and the patient would be taken onboard. The patient and the person accompanying would be briefed on safety precautions and the dos and don’ts.

Upon reaching the destination, a ground ambulance would be already waiting to ferry the patient to the medical facility which is pre-decided. The patient is carefully offloaded and reconnected to any vital medical equipment in the ground ambulance as necessary. The medical flight team would brief the receiving medical staff about the patient’s condition before signing off.

The onus of arranging and coordinating between medical facilities, ambulances and the medical flight is taken care by the hospital and the air ambulance staff. All you would need to do is take care of the payment procedure and pray for the good health of the patient.

The word, "INSURANCE"

Airambulance Insurance Legal Again in Alaska

Alaska, the biggest state in the US is also one of the most thinly populated areas, apart from its rough terrains. Airambulance is often the only reasonable means of transport during emergencies. Most citizens of Alaska always opt for adequate cover through private insurance providers to cover any eventualities that may demand airambulance services. Airlift Northwest’s AirCare insurance program is one of them.

The Airambulance Insurance was Deemed Illegal Earlier

Late last year, AirCare was deemed illegal by the state due to a technicality. The problem arose when there was a change in the insurance company’s ownership. Thanks to Gov. Sean Parnell, the changes have now been made, so that the residents of Alaska can continue to enjoy the security of having airambulance coverage. The Governor had passed the bill specifically to accommodate insurance programs that reduce the “out of pocket” payment burden that people have to face. It was a part of the Affordable Care Act.

What does Airambulance Insurance mean for Alaskans?

Take the example of Lubins family. Their daughter, Ella, 13, had fallen off a horse and suffered life-threatening injuries including a skull fracture. She was immediately taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle via airambulance, as the local hospital was not equipped to handle the extent of her injuries. Ella was fortunate to get treatment on time and is now recovering. However, the cost had come up to $82,000. Thanks to the family’s insurance, they only had to pay about $9000.

In essence, airambulance insurance means the difference between bankruptcy and a normal life. The family only pays about $99 for this coverage. More than 3000 people in Alaska have so far opted for AirCare insurance coverage.

Airambulance insurance providers in Alaska also offer coverage to visitors. The coverage costs as little as $80 and runs for about 3 consecutive months.

ND State Capitol

Status Report of North Dakota Medical Air Services Law

We have seen far too many medical air services bills going unapproved by insurance carriers. It is sometimes hard to point a finger whether the insurance companies should be held responsible for payment or the medical air services. The state of North Dakota, however, has been trying hard to pass a legislation that ensures the burden is off the shoulders of the patients. However, medical air services seem to be up in arms against this legislation, and they seem to be making a valid point. Here, we look into this law and also the factors that are preventing its implementation.

Medical Air Services and Insurance

People who are not a part of Blue Cross Blue Shield are often left to fend for themselves when a huge medical air services bill comes knocking on their door. The reason is simple: most private insurance carriers do not cover the full air ambulance bills and only pay a part. Also if an air ambulance company is not a participating provider of your particular insurance provider, you might have to bear most of the costs yourself. But choosing the participating medical air services is not always possible when life is at stake.

The Government of North Dakota has realized this and is trying to force medical air services to become participating providers with all major insurance companies. The legislation also is trying to set cost limits, where the air ambulance companies cannot charge more than the upper limit set with the insurance providers.

Medical Air Services are Against the Legislation

Federal laws state that states cannot regulate medical air services. Certain air ambulance companies are vehemently opposing this legislation stating that the law would amount to interference that is beyond the purview of the state governments. In fact Valley Air Med has openly challenged this legislation in US District Court in Bismarck. The US Department of Transportation too seems to be siding Valley Air Med’s argument as it feels medical air services should only be guided by federal laws.

As things stand currently, Valley Med Flight has become a participating provider but has voiced its dissatisfaction with Blue Cross Blue Shield payments.

Fist with money in between

Containing Medical Air Transport Costs

When we discuss medical air transport, we resign to the fact that it is going to be an expensive affair. Well, if you are one such person, you cannot be blamed. Media today is filled with stories about bankruptcies and bills that run over several thousands – all thanks to medical air transport.

What if we told you a few wise decisions can contain the costs to a large extent? Of course, it is wise to have medical air transport membership cards and insurances that cover you for air evacuation. But if you are caught in a situation where you don’t have the privilege of such facilities, how do you tackle the situation without having to pay a huge amount? Here, we bring you the answer to this pressing question.

Medical Air Transport Low Price Guarantee

Surprised?! Medical air transport industry today is highly competitive and there are service providers out there who bring you a low price guarantee. These providers will either match the price or bring you the services for a lesser price without compromising on the quality.

Medical Air Transport Vehicle

The medical air transport vehicle you choose can determine the costs. For instance, a twin-jet aircraft will cost less than a jet engine aircraft. Turboprops are another low cost option. As a consumer, you have the right to choose the aircraft in order to keep the costs low. Make cost inquiries about these options before you choose one.

Explore Alternatives to Medical Air Transport

Ask the treating physician whether an air medical escort or air medical stretcher service would suffice. Such services can cut the cost by half or even more sometimes. Also, sometimes, you can share a medical flight if another patient is heading in the same direction. This can be another option to cut down the costs.

Most importantly, never hesitate to discuss cost savings with the medical air transport provider that you choose.

Emergency

Are Air Ambulances Really Necessary?

The question has been long debated in the medical circles and the civilian population, especially considering the growing costs of hiring air ambulances. Here, we discuss a few arguments against the efficacy of air ambulances and point out why these arguments hold no water.

Publication on Air Ambulances by University of Texas Medical Branch

This research dates back over a decade. So, discounting the fact that the traffic as well as the overall population has increased today, we still go by the argument presented in the publication. The study was conducted taking into consideration data that followed 24 months after a hospital discontinued air ambulances and comparing it with the data 12 months preceding the discontinuation of air ambulances.

The study concluded that the discontinuation of the air ambulances did not increase death rate of patients with trauma or increase the transport time. Now, a lot of people arguing against the necessity of air ambulances might cite this finding. However, looking at the “abstract” of the publication, it is apparent that a few vital factors have not been considered.

Without the Air Ambulances, did the Same Number of Patients Reach the Hospital?

That’s the important question. The study says admissions to trauma unit decreased 12%. There was a whopping 17% decrease in admissions involving severe injuries. With the number of road accidents on the rise in the United States continuously, it seems surprising to see the number of emergency cases being reported to a hospital decreasing.

One explanation could be that those cases which demanded urgent attention did not actually receive it due to unavailability of air ambulances. That certainly is not an encouraging sign. The air ambulance networks that are available today can not only reach the patients on time and take them to the nearest appropriate facility, but also offer life-saving treatments during the flight. In fact, we have highlighted the need to get the patients adequate treatments before the golden hour earlier in one of our reports.

People who argue against the need of air ambulances must take the whole picture into consideration before making such sweeping statements.

Flag of Texas

Compliance Norms for Texas Air Ambulance Service Providers

Just because an aircraft is willing to transport a patient, it does not count as an air ambulance service, in any state of the US. Here, we discuss a few rules that have been laid down by Emergency Health Care Act. We discuss only such parts of the act that pertain to air ambulance service providers in the state of Texas. The rules may vary slightly for other states, but you would get the overall picture here.

Air Ambulance Service – What Constitutes Specialized Emergency Service

The vehicle must be specifically designed to carry the injured or sick by air. Also, all equipments necessary for transportation of the patient must be provided by the air ambulance service.

Any air ambulance service that claims to offer specialized transportation services must be licensed by the Department of State Health Services. This includes the aircraft as well as the staff involved. Even the air ambulance service providers flying into Texas from other states must be licensed by the Department of State Health Services and must be in compliance with the safety norms prescribed by it. Out of state providers must be accredited by Committee on Air Ambulance Medical Services. They would be considered to be in compliance with the Department’s norms if accredited.

The Location of the Air Ambulance Service

All advertisements of the air ambulance service provider must contain its physical address in the state. If the service operates from multiple locations, it is free to advertise them. If an out of state air ambulance service advertises within Texas, it must have at least one base in the state.

There is, however, one exclusion to state licensing. Any air transportation provider can offer voluntary service out of compassion without the expectation of remuneration and bear all the costs of transport. However, the company must be in compliance as a regular air transportation service provider.

Two US Passports

Overseas Help with Air Ambulances

Travelling overseas alone, or even as a couple, can be quite intimidating, especially if you encounter a medical emergency of serious nature. Even if you are covered for emergency medical evacuation and have good travel insurance, you would be better off returning to your home country for better treatment and aftercare. Air ambulances become a necessity in these cases. If you are a citizen of the United States, you can expect some help from the US Consulate in this regard.

How Can the Consulate Help You with Air Ambulances?

The consulate will assist you in locating an air ambulance that is best suited for your medical evacuation. You can even request that your friends and family be informed if doing that is tough for you given the circumstances. This will give your loved ones enough time to arrange for finances and take care of other aspects on your arrival.

You can always visit the US Passports and International Travel website to view the list of medical evacuation companies. The same website also lists the US as well as overseas travel and medical insurance companies.

Consulate does not Cover Cost of Air Ambulances

Keep in mind that the consulate merely acts as a facilitator and any expense will still have to be borne by you, your family, your insurance or any other type of coverage that you might have opted for. Keep in mind that your domestic insurance carrier will not cover you when you are abroad, if you have not purchased a cover that specifically states that a medical evacuation will be covered.

The website of the US Passports and International Travel specifically mentions that it assumes no liability or responsibility of any kind. The companies that provide air ambulances are merely listed for the convenience of international travellers. However, finding links to information about air ambulance companies and insurance providers becomes easy when you refer to this website.

Airambulance cabin filled with Medical Equipment

Structural Guidelines for Fixed Wing Airambulance Transport

All most all states in the United States have laid down certain minimum requirements that a fixed wing airambulance must satisfy. The guidelines given below have been issued by the state of Tennessee but the structural guidelines are, in general, similar in other states too.

Airambulance Doors

The doors of the airambulance must be wide enough that a stretcher can be passed through it without tilting it more than 30 degrees. This guideline ensures that the transit of the patient into the airambulance is safely done.

Vertical Height of the Airambulance

It is vital that there is enough headspace so that the medical personnel can function optimally and provide adequate care for the patient. For this reason, all airambulance vehicles must have a minimum vertical height of 30 inches.

The lighting of the Aircraft

The electrical capacity of the airambulance must be equipped to provide “sufficient” light inside, such that medical care is not hindered due to lack of it. The service providers are allowed to make use of portable lamps to achieve this.

Guidelines for Airambulance Equipments

To ensure stability of the patient while entering the aircraft and during the transport, the stretchers must be fitted with at least two restraining straps to keep the patient in place.

The suction devices must have a capacity to produce suction of at least 12 inches of mercury.

Oxygen bags or masks must be available within the airambulance. There must be enough stock so that 95% fraction inspired oxygen is available at all times. The equipment must be capable of adjusting flow between 2 to 5 liters of oxygen per minute.

Adequate sanitary supplies like trash disposal bags, emesis bags, urinal, bedpan, towels, etc, must be available.

Basic tools like stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, dressing materials, and flashlights must be kept handy.

As a patient and a customer availing airambulance services, it is your right to have these facilities and being aware of such basic things about air ambulances can help.

Pic of hand holding money

Guide to Medical Flight Financial Considerations

Insurance is the foremost financial consideration when it comes to a medical flight; however, we’ve had enough discussion on the subject. There are also other factors that one must bear in mind. The cost of a medical flight largely depends on the aspects that we discuss below.

Does the Medical Flight Need Prepping for Special Equipment?

If the patient needs traction, cardiac monitors, ventilator and similar equipment, there is obviously going to be a cost attached to them. These factors will increase the price of the medical flight. If the medication is provided by the provider of the medical flight, the costs might even go higher.

The Destination and Duration of Medical Flight

It goes without saying that a longer medical flight costs more. However, the cost of flying from one country to another can push the costs even higher. As most health insurances do not cover overseas medical flight, the patient might have to bear a huge burden. Having a comprehensive travel insurance that covers such costs or being a part of medical flight membership programs is vital before overseas travel.

Distance between Transferring Facility and Receiving Facility from Airport/Helipad

Most of the medical flight service providers take care of all details including transportation of the patient from the transferring hospital to receiving hospital. One must understand that this demands considerable coordination. If the receiving facility is located in a foreign country, the service provider would have to take care of customs, visa, and other formalities too. The medical flight service providers charge for all their efforts. If it involves, ground transport, the patient will also be billed for that.

The costs might also depend on the type of aircraft used. Travelling through a long-range medical flight can be expensive but necessary. However, when it comes to medical transportation, all service providers are not equal. Some charge considerably more than others. It is for you to weigh the costs against the benefits and take a call, if at all possible.

Pill over a dollar bill

Guide: Air Medical Transport Cost Determination

With the cost of even a short air medical transport flight running into thousands of dollars, a little homework before zeroing on one is not a bad idea, especially if you have the liberty of doing so. Keep in mind that you would not have the liberty or time to choose an air medical transport operator during emergencies. However, if the situation is not life-threatening, it pays to look into certain aspects.

How Far is the Air Medical Transport Vehicle from You?

You might be paying for the distance covered by the air medical transport vehicle to reach you. So, it’s vital that you contact a local air ambulance company, which stations its vehicle close to you. This can save you several hundreds or even thousands.

Have you Got a Final Quote for the Air Ambulance Transport?

The quote that you receive from the company might not be all inclusive. This means you might have to shell out more money than what is mentioned in the quote. Contact your flight coordinator to know the exact details about the price quote.

Does your Insurance Cover Air Ambulance Transport?

There are several guidelines that one needs to follow to assure smooth coverage of air ambulance transport costs by the insurance provider. Look at aspects such as medical necessity, closest appropriate medical facility, and treating physician’s approval even before you start looking for an air ambulance.

Does the Air Ambulance Company offer Comprehensive Services?

There are several aspects that must be taken care of:

  • The transport of the patient from the hospital to the air ambulance
  • Transport from air ambulance to ground ambulance
  • Coordination with receiving facility
  • Medical repatriation beyond borders

Opt for an air ambulance company that covers these corners. Involving yourself in these matters can be time consuming and might cost you extra.

Finally, check whether you can substitute air ambulance for a commercial airline. Simple things like IV fluids, professional care, and stretchers can be accommodated in a commercial airline too, which cost far less than an air ambulance.