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.
You are just recovering from a serious health issue that demanded immediate attention. The matter was so urgent that it warranted an air ambulance transport. Just when you think that the worst is over, you are hit with a huge air ambulance transport bill. You breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you are covered by your insurance. Then, another shocker: the insurance company refuses to foot the entire cost. You suddenly find yourself spending sleepless nights not knowing how to foot such a huge air ambulance transport bill. Don’t worry, there’s still hope for you.
The Air Ambulance Transport Bill could be a “Sticker Shock”
It’s not unheard of in the healthcare industry where the listing prices are kept very high and air ambulance transport industry is no different. The prices are significantly lowered later, depending on the negotiating capacity of the patient. It is not unusual for air ambulance providers to come down to half the listed price. Some even offer flexible payment options.
Insurance companies that have huge number of subscribers are most likely to get huge discounts from air ambulance transport companies. Another factor is payment in cash. If you have the resources, the discount could be great. Also, you stand to gain if the air ambulance transport company is in the network of your insurance provider.
Community-Based Air Ambulance Transport Programs
Is the air ambulance transport company that you chose a part of community-based air ambulance transport program? If it is, then you’re lucky. The price is going to be low and is very likely to be covered by your insurance program. However, some air ambulance transport companies remain out of such community-based programs. These companies usually charge a huge amount which is not always covered by insurance companies. The amount not covered is usually recovered through the patient. If you have been served by one such air ambulance company, you might want to negotiate hard with the air ambulance transport company.
The different states of the United States are also in the process of designing a priority list which will mandate that health care providers give preference to community-based air ambulance transport companies before calling a provider who is out of such network.
Air ambulance services are the only option most of the time when a patient suffers a severe heart attack, stroke or any other medical eventuality. The sad part is that, during such times, most patients are neither in a position to deny air ambulance services nor choose one on their own. For this reason, the Nebraska Department of Insurance has come up with certain guidelines to keep the patients away from financial shocks.
How Much Does Air Ambulance Typically Cost?
The numbers can run anywhere from $12,000 to $25,000 per flight and these numbers only cover domestic flights. If the requirement of air ambulance is to fly overseas, the price can go well over $100,000. The Association of Air Medical Services says that over 550,000 patients make use of air medical evacuation each year. A sizeable part of this population later faces problem when it comes to payment of the bills as insurance companies refuse to cover the entire charge.
Understanding Air Ambulance Insurance
Insurance companies will only pay the bills when they deem the use of air ambulance absolutely necessary for the patient’s survival. There are times when insurance companies refuse to foot the bill or part of it.
When it comes to Medicare, it only pays if it determines that the necessity for air ambulance is immediate and that ground ambulance cannot do the job. Also, it only covers the cost to the nearest appropriate medical facility.
What is the Solution?
The first and foremost thing to do is read all the details of your insurance cover thoroughly. In case you need additional cover, purchase it beforehand. Know all the terms and conditions. Here are some of the questions that should bother you:
- Will the insurance cover equipments like oxygen and life support onboard the air ambulance?
- Will the cost of transportation to and from the air ambulance be covered?
- Will the cost of family member accompanying the patient be covered?
- Is there a limit to the distance covered?
- What types of emergencies are covered?
It is important to note here that the only way to keep yourself away from a financial doom is to think about air ambulance when you’re healthy.
So your credit card says that it will get you medical help during times of emergency. But does that mean you can rest assured that you will reach your home in the United States? What you need to do is read the fine print. If a part of the terms and condition reads that you will be transported to the nearest appropriate medical facility, you might be in trouble. Yes, you might get help, but you might end up getting that help quite far from you home and sometimes not even in your home country. Now, if you are travelling overseas, this can pose serious concerns for you, and you might still end up paying tens of thousands of dollars for evacuation via air ambulance transport.
Ensuring Adequate Air Ambulance Transport
If you are going to rely on your credit card to cover the risk of using air ambulance transport, ensure that you get answers for the following questions:
What is the financial limit of the air ambulance transport?
Some credit cards might set a limit beyond which you might have to pay out of pocket. Knowing the limit will help you prepare financially.
Are there any terms and conditions?
If the credit card does not cover air ambulance transport for pre-existing illnesses, you might be in trouble when your existing illness like a heart condition flares up unexpectedly. Moreover, it is important that you cover this risk as you are more likely to need air ambulance transport for a pre-existing condition.
Do I have the privilege of choosing the hospital?
You do not want to end up in a hospital that is too far away from your home. Also, you might not feel confident getting yourself treated in a hospital that you do not know of.
Can my family travel with me?
You might want your family to accompany you during your air ambulance transport, just so that you feel reassured and comfortable, so check whether your agreement with the credit card allows you this privilege.
At the end of it, there are credit cards that allow you good coverage for a reasonable price. On your part, be wise and proactively check what you are getting into so that you remain safe.
If your loved one is in need of air ambulance transport and if you have enough time in your hands to choose among the various service providers, would you still opt for a broker to choose one? If your answer is yes, think again. Here, we list a few reasons as to why you are better off scouting for an air ambulance transport yourself.
Cost of Air Ambulance Transport
An air ambulance transport broker usually pours in all efforts to give you the cheapest available option out there. Of course, this is good but one needs to keep in mind that the cheapest is not always the best. It is necessary to look into other aspects too. Moreover, the broker will invariably add his charges to the overall cost of air ambulance transport. If you look for an air ambulance yourself, you can save this money.
Ability to Answer Questions About Air Ambulance Transport Service
Keep in mind that the broker is not a representative of the air ambulance transport company. He would therefore have limited knowledge to allay all your fears and concerns. This can be a major disadvantage if you are anxious about the whole thing. When you choose to find an air ambulance transport company yourself, you would be dealing with the representative of the company who would be in a better position to clarify all your doubts.
Do the Legwork for Air Ambulance Transport Yourself
Spending a bit of time to find an air ambulance transport service yourself can free you of a lot of worries. Most of the time, all it takes is looking online for a few phone numbers of air ambulance companies and calling them up. The air ambulance transport coordinators would do the rest of the work. Spending a couple of hours to perform this task can save you money and worry.
If you’re guessing that we are discussing more about health insurance, you must know that we aren’t. What we discuss here is the malpractice insurance and liability insurance coverage that an air ambulance service is mandated to provide. Let’s discuss each of the insurance individually and see what they mean for you.
Air Ambulance Service and Liability Insurance
What do you think of a car driver who does not have adequate liability insurance? The answer in one world would be “irresponsible.” The same holds good for an air ambulance service. You do not want to associate with an air ambulance service provider that doesn’t care for such responsibilities. In fact, all air ambulance companies in the United States must have a liability insurance cover of $20 million.
What if the air ambulance service you travel does not have liability cover? You don’t have to worry about that in terms of legality, it is entirely the responsibility of the service provider. However, such coverage is an indication of the air ambulance service provider’s reputation.
Air Ambulance Service and Malpractice Insurance
Of course, the last thing you want is a malpractice situation. There’s no doubt about that but medical malpractice does exist and you need coverage against it. Wouldn’t you want your physician or ground medical transportation to have malpractice insurance to feel secure? This should be no different for an air ambulance service. The law mandates that every air ambulance service in the United States has a policy that covers $1 million for medical malpractice.
Ask the Air Ambulance Service about Insurance Covers
The air ambulance service providers are under no obligation to make their insurance covers public. However, most reliable air ambulance service providers come forth with complete information regarding both liability and medical malpractice coverage. This shows that such providers are patient-oriented. If an air ambulance company is unwilling to discuss these details with you, perhaps you should look elsewhere for this life-saving medical service.
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.
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.
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.
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.