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.
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.
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.
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.
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.