We have already discussed previously that air ambulance transport can cost up to $100,000 when it involves crossing international borders. Now, add this amount to the medical expenses you incur overseas and your trip can turn out to be a physical and financial nightmare. Your Medicare and Medicaid will not cover you in a foreign country unless you have purchased supplemental coverage. However, they have no provisions to cover for air ambulance transport overseas whatsoever. Most health insurance policies like Aetna and Blue Cross too won’t cover you for air ambulance transport in situations like these, although they do cover emergency care. You might have to first pay out of pocket and ask for reimbursement later.
Look for Options that Cover Air Ambulance Transport Overseas
As a matter of caution, it therefore becomes necessary that people travelling abroad look at options that actually cover air ambulance transport back home. Let’s explore some of these:
- Travel Guard by AIG is one such option. This includes medical evacuation, which means you have medical insurance along with air ambulance transport charges covered through the policy.
- Med Jet Assist is another option. The only requirement here is that you are 150 miles away from your home. The membership allows the patient to fly back to the hospital of choice once medically stable. Med Jet Assist charters air ambulance transport for this purpose.
- Air Med is also an option which gives you the same benefits as Med Jet Assist does. The only difference here is that Air Med owns its own fleet for air ambulance transport.
- Air Ambulance Card is another company that offers similar services as Med Jet Assist and Air Med.
Never Travel Overseas without Air Ambulance Transport Coverage
It is impossible to compensate for the unfortunate hardships you suffer overseas sometimes. However, having adequate air ambulance transport coverage ensures that you get the best medical care in your home country. Often, the exotic locations that you travel have unhygienic and inadequately staffed hospitals. You do not want to be compelled to seek treatment in such conditions. Good air ambulance transport coverage insulates you from such situations. Plus the amount you pay for such coverage is negligible considering the cost of overseas air ambulance transport.
Wanting to help the needy by being part of air ambulance transport is no doubt a noble intent. However, the profession is fraught with several dangers and is counted among the most dangerous professions in the world. People who aspire to join air ambulance transport sector must give due consideration to certain aspects of the sector. Apart from the fact that air ambulance transport services cater to people in war torn areas, natural disasters and global epidemics such as the recent Ebola threat, there are other factors too that must be considered. Here, we highlight a few of those.
Air Ambulance Transport Crews are More at Risk than Patients
One simple reason is the fact that more than one crew member accompanies a patient usually. The second reason could be that the crew usually has to make more flights, one to pick the patient, one to drop and another trip to return to the air base. All this while the crew, with the inadequate safety standards, is exposed to more danger.
There is also a sense of urgency that surrounds most air ambulance transport trips. For instance, if a patient has had a heart attack, the first priority is always to transport the patient to the nearest medical facility within the first hour.
Some air ambulance transport industry experts have also raised concerns about the competition that exists between air ambulance transport companies to make the maximum number of flights. Such a “race” naturally puts the air ambulance transport safety in the backseat.
Stricter Rules for Air Ambulance Transport in the US are on the Way
The need of the hour, therefore, is stricter regulations. American air ambulance transport sector can take a leaf out of the Canada which has stricter regulations. For instance, it is mandated that at least two pilots must be present in every air ambulance trip. That said, the FAA has now proposed new safety rules, which will be implemented by 2015. The regulations have come into place after many postponements and delays. On the positive side, however, we hope that the new rules make air ambulance transport safer for the crews.
Among the many conditions Medicare lays down, ensuring that “the facility is appropriate” is vital. Failing this condition, the medical air transportation service might go uncovered and cause financial stress on you later. Here, we try and understand what makes a medical facility appropriate. The data has been collected from Department of Health and Human Resources, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The Medical Air Transportation Must Carry the Patient to an Equipped Facility
The appropriate facility could be an acute care hospital. The facility must be adequately equipped to provide hospital care or skilled nursing services which are in accordance with the demands of the injury or illness that the patient comes with. A physician or specialist who is qualified to take care of the patient must also be available at the destination that the medical air transportation carries him or her to.
Situations that Allow Medical Air Transportation to a More Distant Facility
It is generally assumed that all licensed medical facilities would be able to care for the patient. If the nearest medical facility is not equipped enough to care for the patient, medical air transportation of the patient can be carried out to the next nearest facility. The circumstances that warrant such medical air transportation are as follows:
- The patient’s condition demands a higher level speciality or trauma care, which can only be availed at a medical facility that is more distant.
- There is a problem with the availability of beds in the nearest facility.
The medical air transportation to a facility solely for the purpose of availing the service of a particular doctor is not permissible and might not be covered. Also, Medicare might not cover medical air transportation to a distant hospital merely because the patient desires it, in spite of the medical facilities being available at the nearest hospital.
Unless you are ready to bear the cost of medical air transportation yourself or have other means to cover the cost, these facts must be borne in mind. Knowing such conditions beforehand keeps you insulated from monetary shocks at a later stage.
Medicare demands that certain criteria are met in order to get coverage for the air ambulance services. The information delineated below has been summarized from what has been published by the Department of Health and Human Services – Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Department has a few basic coverage requirements, perhaps the most important of these is the one that says, “the service is medically reasonable and necessary.” Here, we try to understand this requirement in greater detail.
Air Ambulance Services Transport Requirements
- The patient’s medical condition demands rapid and immediate air ambulance services.
- Air ambulance services are required because ALS or BLS can potentially adversely affect the patient’s health or can be a threat to patient’s survival.
- The POP or point of pickup is inaccessible through ground transport. This can be especially true in areas such as Alaska and Hawaii.
- The distance to the closest and medically appropriate facility is so much that it demands travel greater than 30 to 60 minutes via ground transport.
- The instability of ground transport
Medical Conditions that Justify Air Ambulance Services
The list given below is a broad classification and can be further expanded depending on the location and other aspects.
- Intracranial bleeding (bleeding inside the skull) that warrants the medical intervention of a neurosurgeon.
- Shock caused by cardiac arrest (cardiogenic shock)
- Burns that warrant admission of the patient to a burn unit or burn center
- Medical condition that warrants treatment in a HOU or hyperbaric oxygen unit.
- Severe and multiple injuries
- A trauma that can be a threat to patient’s life
Also, facilities such as critical care, burn care, cardiac care and trauma care might not be available at the facility that the patient is first taken, and can be a reason for utilizing air ambulance services.
Understanding these conditions helps people gauge in advance whether Medicare would cover the cost of air ambulance services or not.
“Golden hour” is a term that is often referred to in cases of medical emergencies, especially involving an air ambulance. However, if you try looking the term up on the internet, you will be confronted with a variety of conflicting definitions and opinions on it. Here, we try and impress upon you the importance of the term golden hour and tell you why the term needs to be viewed in a broader perspective.
What does the Term Mean for an Air Ambulance Service?
In short, golden hour is that short window of time by which a patient stands the maximum chance of full recovery if he or she receives medical attention. The term is most often referred to in critical cases and the window is usually 60 minutes. It is therefore always the ultimate aim of an air ambulance service to get help within this window of time, when dealing with emergencies. It must be understood that an air ambulance does not always get the full 60 minutes to transport a critical patient, since getting the logistics right can be quite a task. Getting the first-responders, qualified crew, and the staff of the receiving hospital in tandem can prove tough, although an air ambulance service would give it its best to get these aspects in sync.
An Air Ambulance may get a Larger Window of Time Sometimes
If one is to define the golden hour in a wider sense, it would be a time greater than one hour in some cases. Take for instance stroke victims. Here the air ambulance would have about 3 hours at its disposal to get the patient the help he or she needs. In essence, the golden hour need not be 60 minutes literally. It could be a case-by-case urgency, which would be best defined by the treating physician. The golden hour would also determine – in most cases – whether an air ambulance is a feasible option considering the time, accessibility, and costs involved. However, being knowledgeable about the golden hour can help you call for help in a timely manner and save a loved one.