More often than not, we hear about skyrocketing medical flight bills that families are forced to pay. While it is natural for such families to feel victimized, having some prior knowledge about insurance coverage can prove helpful. If you are among those people who feel all they need to do is pay health insurance premiums, sit back and relax, here’s some news: your most basic health needs might not be covered. This mostly happens when the medical service provider is out of network.
Out of Network Medical Flights can Be Expensive
Take the case of 8-year-old Ben Millheim who met with an unfortunate accident fracturing his skull. The injury necessitated using a medical flight service to a hospital about 100 miles from the site of injury. While the boy survived and recovered well, his parents are still reeling under the $32,000 medical flight bill. Unfortunately for them, the medical flight service that they had used was out of their insurance network. As a result they are now liable to pay the service provider the ‘balance bill.’ In other words, they have to now shell out of their pockets the amount that their insurance provider has refused to pay the medical flight company for the reason that it does not come in their network.
It’s Almost Always a No-win Situation for Patients
Life-threatening injuries leave little room for checking whether a particular medical flight service provider is covered by the health insurance. While insurance companies flatly refuse to bear such expenses, it has been seen that air ambulance companies usually offer a discount to such patients. Plus, several states in the United States have passed legislation to limit balance billing; however, some states like Missouri have not. It must also be noted that there is no federal regulation that governs balance billing, leaving people vulnerable.
You may have invested in the best EMS software available in the market to maintain your patient records. However, that doesn’t guarantee that your air ambulance service will maintain flawless patient care records. There are several steps that managers need to take that will ensure that your team maintains better data using the equipment and resources you have.
Prioritizing on Training New Air Ambulance Service Hires
When orienting new employees to the service, make sure you include a course that thoroughly covers writing patient care reporting. You should train them on how to input data accurately and pertinently in addition to teaching them how to use your PCR software.
But that’s not enough. Your employees should have a clear understanding of why it’s important to maintain accurate and complete patient care reports. So you should include a few sessions that will help them understand how the quality of their data collection procedure also affects your air ambulance service.
Have Regular Audits throughout the Organization
It’s also crucial that you try to have regular audits throughout your organization to ensure that your employees are complying with your rules and requirements. You should thoroughly go through the patient reports created by each of your employees every few months. And make sure you try to see their reports from different months to ensure that they are being consistent with the quality.
Regular audits of your patient care reports will also help you identify scopes for improving your current process. For example, maybe you have noticed that the report only has the name of the person entering the report. And you think that it would be better to record which of your employees were tending to the patient. So you’ve decided that you should change the report in such a way that everyone’s name is listed.
If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’re interested in joining the air ambulance industry. And perhaps you wish to provide life-saving care by becoming an air ambulance transport paramedic. Maybe you’re still considering the option and are unsure whether the job would be a good fit for you. Here are some of the best reasons why you should become an air ambulance paramedic:
Reason 1: You won’t be working behind a desk
For those of you who have been dreading the idea of working in a corporate white-collar job with your own cubicle, becoming an air ambulance paramedic has great appeal. It’s not monotonous like your typical office job and you’re always on the move.
Reason 2: There’s a high demand for air ambulance transport paramedics
If you’ve ever worried about being unable to land a job in the field of your choice, you wouldn’t have to face those worries if you become an air ambulance paramedic. The air ambulance industry is growing exponentially, and therefore has an increasing demand for experienced paramedics.
Reason 3: Experience better salary growth than ground EMTs
There’s been a growth in the salary graph of paramedics in the air ambulance industry. While the average salary stood at $34,360, some states have an average salary of $54,180 for air ambulance paramedics.
Reason 4: You can build your self-confidence
The role of an air ambulance transport paramedic requires you to be self assured and to trust in yourself. As a result of these demands, you get to build your self-confidence that will help you in your personal and professional life.
Reason 5: You get to make a difference
As an air ambulance paramedic, there may be times when you encounter patients who are so seriously ill or injured that they don’t end up surviving even if you did your best. But in many cases, you are the difference between life and death for your patients. And you can make a difference for them, which is the most important reason you should build a career in air ambulance paramedicine.
In a previous post, we talked about some of the specific guidelines you need to follow when treating patients who have fainted. Also known as syncope, fainting is a common occurrence and as a medical flight paramedic, you may encounter a few patients in this situation. In this post, you’ll get more details about the guidelines released by the American College of Cardiology so you can get a thorough understanding of what to do.
More tips on handling medical flight patients with syncope
The previous post talked about the initial steps you need to take when you encounter a patient who has fainted. And those steps can be used by medical flight paramedics. According to the American College of Cardiology, health care professionals can follow the guidelines below when they have to treat a patient who faints:
- Some patients may have fainted because of irregular heartbeats, which can even be life-threatening. To determine whether your patient is facing this issue, doctors can use an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator to regulate the heartbeats.
- For syncope patients who have heart conditions, beta-blockers can be a good option.
- Health care providers should advise fainting patients to restrict their exercise in the future.
- Patients with recurring fainting spells resulting from very low heart rate might require pacemakers. In case of patients with common faints, drugs may be enough to control the situation.
- In case of unexplained fainting, heart rhythm monitoring is a good option to determine whether or not the patient has intermittent heart rhythm issues resulting in fainting.
The American College of Cardiology also advises athletes with fainting issues to visit an experienced health care provider for a heart assessment. These are some of the basic guidelines that can help in providing the right level of care for people who faint.
An associate degree or a certificate with the relevant certification and training is usually enough for a person to qualify as an air ambulance paramedic. And people who do hold this position are highly-trained and professional. They have the expertise and the knowledge required to carry out their duties. But having a higher education is ideal to secure your job as a paramedic for an air ambulance service.
Benefits of Higher Education to Work for an Air Ambulance Service
There are many air ambulance paramedics out there who are perfectly capable of carrying out their duties despite only fulfilling the minimum education requirement. However, a higher education is ideal to better perform your duties because of the following reasons:
- Better comprehension – In your training to become an air ambulance paramedic, you will be covering plenty of text books and course books to help you learn the basics. And when you have a higher degree, there’s a better chance of you understanding what these books are saying. Although most paramedic students will be able to read the books, students who have a low grade level reading skill might find it more challenging to comprehend the study course.
- Better ability to make rational decision – Being a paramedic for an air ambulance service requires rational thinking, which will lead to rational decision making. For this, you need to train your brain to logically work through difficult situations and problems.
Courses in math and accounting can help with this and if you have a higher education, it’s likely that you would have gotten through such courses. So you will be able to easily make accurate drug calculations, time and distance calculations, etc.
- Better ability to handle complexities in paramedicine – A higher education also improves your chances of understanding changes and revolutions in paramedicine. It could help you gain a better understanding of complex pathophysiology, anatomy, and physiology.
If you have Medicare coverage, you can get coverage for ambulance transportation to or from the hospital. The coverage also includes skilled nursing facility (SNF) or critical access hospital (CAH). It’s important to remember that Medicare will help you pay for ambulance services but only if other modes of transportation could be harmful for your health. This doesn’t necessarily mean you automatically quality for air ambulance transport either. First, let’s take a look at the medical necessity of availing ambulance transport.
Medical Requirement for Availing Ambulance Transport Under Medicare
Medicare will pay for the cost of emergency ambulance transportation in case of sudden medical emergencies with your health being in serious danger, provided that other modes of transportation like cars and taxi could endanger your health. You can get coverage for ambulance transportation if:
- You’re unconscious
- You’re bleeding heavily
- You’re in shock
- You require skilled medical treatment throughout the transportation
Requirements to Qualify for Air Ambulance Transport Under Medicare
The above-mentioned examples don’t necessarily qualify you fir air ambulance transport that is covered by Medicare. To be eligible for medical transport by air, your condition must require immediate and fast transportation that cannot be done through ground transportation. Medicare will cover for your expenses only if your condition fulfills the following requirements:
- Ground transportation can’t easily reach your location
- Obstacles like heavy traffic, long distances, etc. could prevent you from getting the immediate care that you require if you’re traveling by ground ambulance
There may even be a few but special instances wherein Medicare will cover for the cost of ambulance transport even in non-emergency cases. This is provided in case you have a doctor’s letter stating that your medical condition requires transportation with an ambulance.
Contrary to popular belief, hospitals are rarely involved in dispatch of a medical flight. The decision is almost entirely taken by the ground crew and treating doctor who determine whether the patient would benefit from an air ambulance service or not. Of course, there are some protocols that are followed. Although the process and protocols vary depending on the jurisdiction, there are certain common determinants that we discuss here.
Time Taken for Medical Flight Dispatch
It must be understood that not all hospitals have a medical flight on standby. It takes a reasonable amount of time to get the flight ready for takeoff. If this time and the time required to transport the patient is too much when compared to ground ambulance transport, the latter may be chosen. There is also a cost consideration when the difference in time advantage is too small.
Location and Distance of Transfer
This is another important criterion. Sometimes the location is too far away from the hospital and the patient’s health does not permit long travel times. Also, the location may be inaccessible through roads. In circumstances like these, the decision is usually made to opt for a medical flight to keep the patient safe.
The Condition of the Patient
This is of extreme importance. A delay by half an hour can mean the difference between life and death for the patient. In scenarios like these, a decision is taken quickly to call for an air ambulance and the patient is transported. Near-drowning, prior history or suspected stroke, and severe trauma could be some of the conditions that could influence the decision.
The Weather Conditions for the Medical Flight
If there are adverse weather conditions that prevent the choppers from flying, the patient may be transported through other means. As a matter of policy, the lives of crew members are not put to risk knowing very well that taking off in bad weather could be fatal.
It is important to understand that the above are just a few of the reasons that influence medical flight dispatch decisions. It is always the competent medical authority that takes the final decision.
There was a time when medical air services were nothing but means to get the injured and the critically ill to medical facilities. With technology, air ambulances have evolved a great deal today. The evolution has been to the extent that medical flights these days are nothing short of hospitals on wings. With physicians onboard, the survival chances of people involved in accidents, shootings and stabbings are much better. The United States is also among the few countries in the world that have a huge number of air ambulances, ready to carry patients anytime, anywhere.
Medical Procedures that Medical Air Services Handle
Air ambulances are usually loaded with equipment like oxygen and vital monitors. There are instances where invasive procedures such as thoracotomy too have been performed. Emergency amputations and putting patients into induced coma also can be carried out in a medical flight. How can we forget the role of air ambulances in ferrying Ebola patients to the United States during the crisis in African countries recently? The medical air services were so equipped that risk-free quarantines were created within them.
Air Ambulances Employ Highly Qualified Personnel
Quality of care is the hallmark of most air ambulance service providers. Special training is invariably given to the crew and ongoing training sessions are conducted. There are specialty medical flights – just like hospitals – that take care of specific concerns. For instance, you can find pediatric intensive care units within air ambulances, complete with qualified staff to handle infants.
Career in the air ambulance industry is also a highly sought out one in the United States today. The excitement of being in the midst of action and big pay packages have meant that qualified medical personnel are eager to join the industry. For a common man, the developments mean quicker and efficient healthcare services.
Medical emergencies pop up just about any time. What if they pop up during your overseas vacation? You might be chilling out somewhere in Cuba and suddenly your partner suffers a stroke. You get your partner transported to a hospital and suddenly, you realize that the standards of healthcare are below your expectation. That’s when the panic kicks in.
The first thing that comes to mind is a worldwide air ambulance service that can get your partner safely back home for quality medical care. But then you realize, you’re in Cuba and getting out of a country that doesn’t enjoy a great diplomatic equation with your home country is not all that easy. That’s when the connections of your air ambulance service provider come into picture.
Always Choose Experienced Worldwide Air Ambulance Services
Well-known worldwide air ambulance companies have contacts at the highest level. Take for instance that the Cuban officials put a 24-hour hold on the air ambulance services. These 24 hours could mean the difference between life and death, and staying back is not a choice.
A worldwide air ambulance company that has the right connections will put in all efforts to push the right buttons (and strings) at the highest level to get you evacuated. There are organizations and sympathetic political leaders throughout the world. The only thing needed is the right approach to get to them.
Of Course, Worldwide Air Ambulance Cover Matters
While getting out of a country is one issue, footing the air ambulance bill is another. Your worldwide air ambulance company will be at ease when it knows that you are covered financially. Transporting a patient beyond borders is typically an expensive affair. However, the good news is that there are worldwide air ambulance coverage programs designed specifically for this purpose. The next time, you set out for an overseas vacation, keep these aspects in mind. After all, it pays to be safe.
The United States of America spends the highest amount of money on healthcare in the world. It was already at $2.9 trillion in 2013, which has only increased since. This is not necessarily a bad thing as patients invariably get excellent medical care throughout the country.
The insurance too, for the most part, covers the expenses well, although it’s a bit long-drawn sometimes. However, air ambulance service coverage has been a bone of contention for sometime with most of the blame going to the air ambulance service provider rather than the insurance companies. Take the instance of air ambulance services in Montana.
Air Ambulance Service in Montana
Montana is mostly comprised of rural areas, so speciality healthcare is not always available close by, necessitating use of air ambulance service for adequate treatment. The air ambulance services are not always covered by insurance companies in full and the reason given is that the service is not “in-network” and only the companies that are in the insurance network are covered.
Bargaining Power of Air Ambulance Service Providers Matters
To get to the core of the problem, one needs to understand the negotiations held between air ambulance service providers and insurance providers. In a place like Montana, there are a few insurance providers; in fact, there are just three. This gives the insurance companies huge bargaining power when fixing an amount that would be given to the air ambulance service provider. Most air ambulance companies are wary of settling for a low price as it doesn’t adequately cover the cost. As a result, they choose to stay out of the network. Insurance companies only cover air ambulance services in full if they are offered by companies “in network.”
Moreover, the patient rarely gets to choose an air ambulance service provider. Last year alone, Montana saw over 3,000 medical flights. There needs to be some consensus between all the insurance providers and air ambulance service providers if the patients are to benefit in the true sense.