Category Archives: Financial

What if Medicare Doesn’t Cover Your Air Ambulance Cost

If you felt the medical situation warranted the air ambulance trip, yet Medicare refused to cover the charges, you don’t necessarily have to be disheartened. You can still check a few things and appeal Medicare to cover the air ambulance expenses.

Check Your Paperwork and Medicare Summary Notice (MSN)

Medicare gives you the reason for not covering air ambulance trip and there can be two primary reasons for it:

  1. The air ambulance company failed to appropriately document your need for air ambulance transport: In a situation like this, contact the doctor or social worker who was involved in mandating the air ambulance transport. Send this information to the organization that handles your medical bills on behalf of Medicare.
  2. The air ambulance company failed to file appropriate paperwork: You can always ask your air ambulance company to re-file your claim. If this does not yield results, you can then proceed to file an appeal.

If Medicare Still Refuses to Pay, File an Appeal

People who have Medicare have certain rights and one such right is filing an appeal against non-coverage of your air ambulance bills. Here’s a stepwise approach:

Look at MSN and find reason for not covering the air ambulance trip: Apart from the reason, the MSN will also let you know the time by which you need to file the appeal.

  1. Follow the instructions on MSN to file the appeal against non-coverage of air ambulance trip: It will also contain the address to which you need to send the appeal. You must accompany it with a letter stating why your air ambulance trip must be covered.
  2. Get in touch with the doctor who suggested air ambulance services: Attach this information to the MSN before sending it to the designated address.
  3. Keep a copy for yourself: You might need the copy of your appeal as a proof, so make a copy and keep it with you.

You can also get in touch with Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov/appeals.

Is Air Ambulance Transport the Right Option? Answering these Questions Can Help

Deciding whether a patient needs air ambulance transport can be a tough decision, even for a doctor sometimes. In this realm, asking certain questions before deciding on air ambulance transport can help. Below are a few of them.

Does the condition warrant that patient spends least possible time out of hospital?

If the answer is yes, then the patient might be best suited for air ambulance transport as it is quicker than ground transport.

Is a time-sensitive facility unavailable in the current treating facility?

Certain lifesaving facilities or treatments might not be available in the hospital that is treating the patient at the current time. Air ambulance transport might become essential to carry the patient to the nearest medical center that has this facility.

Is the area only accessible through air ambulance transport?

Certain remote areas that have bad or no roads can only reached through air ambulance transport. Air ambulance choppers obviously are preferred during such cases.

Is the weather suitable for air ambulance transport?

The new FAA guidelines for air ambulance transport and the general safety concern for the crew prevents use of air ambulances when the weather conditions are unfavorable.

Is the weight of the patient, equipment and crew within permissible limit of air ambulance transport?

The permissibility of weight might also depend on the kind of aircraft that is available during the emergency. However, weight is a concern that must be addressed.

Is there an airport or helipad to land the air ambulance near the receiving facility?

If the landing facilities are not available, air ambulance transport might not at all be an option. Landing at a considerable distance and carrying the patient to the receiving facility through ground ambulance might defeat the purpose of using air ambulance transport.

Does the ground transport lack critical care support?

Air ambulances usually are extremely well equipped. If the ground ambulance lacks such support, then air ambulance transport might be the only option.

Will use of ground ambulance leave local area with inadequate emergency coverage?

If the answer is yes, then air medical transport might have to be opted so that the medical facility is prepared to meet other potential emergencies locally.

Answering these questions can help make split second decisions, which can mean the difference between life and death during emergencies.

Guide to Medical Flight Cost Containment

Speak of a medical flight and the fist thing that occupies your mind is the cost involved. With the absence of adequate insurance coverage, especially when abroad, one is compelled to think out of the box to come up with financially viable solutions that do not compromise on medical flight safety. Instead of looking at government aid or charity, medical flight companies must introspect and come up with ways that can keep tabs on the cost. Here we discuss a few of those.

A Medical Flight Must Avoid “Empty Leg”

There is always a distance that a medical flight must cover in order to reach the patient in distress. This distance where the medical flight does not actually carry a patient is called “empty leg.” What if another needy patient is carried the distance? The cost can thus be shared between two patients.

Quote One-Way Charge for the Medical Flight

Once the patient is flown to the destination, the flight is often compelled to return empty. With a good network in place, the medical flight can look for patients who need to use their services on the way back. The cost can thus be shared between two people essentially halving the cost.

A Medical Flight Company Can Share Resources

Rather than competing with each other, medical flight companies must look at sharing their resources and thus jointly bear the cost. The result would be cheaper overheads and resultant cheaper costs to the patients. Another way would be to employ contractors. For example, freelance pilots and nursing services can be hired on an as-needed basis.

Accommodate More than One Patient per Medical Flight

Medical flights that can accommodate more than one patient at a time can be very helpful. While the cost of a larger aircraft could be a bit high, aircraft maintenance, staff, fuel charges, etc., would certainly be less and could turn out to be a very viable long-term plan. The patients gain by paying less as the cost of travel can be shared.

There is no denying the fact that all these solutions cannot be implemented at times when there is a medical emergency. However, with good coordination between various medical flight service providers, there is a hope that costs can be contained to a large extent.

Understanding Why Air Ambulance Services are Expensive

We have heard many a stories where families have been drained of their finances owing to the cost of air ambulance services that go uncovered by insurance. If you are wondering why this life-saving mode of transport is getting more expensive by the day, you must look into all the factors that go into the pricing of air ambulance services.

Air Ambulance Services are Expensive due to Several Factors

Even though the fuel prices have gone down, jet fuel prices have not fallen proportionately; so the cost of fuel to run air ambulance services is one major factor.

Insurance cost of air ambulance vehicles have also gone up due to the many air ambulance accidents that we have witnessed recently.

Insurance providers and healthcare watchdogs expect air ambulance services to maintain the highest standards, and maintaining such standards comes at a cost.

The salaries of critical care nurses and doctors too are rising rapidly, which is adding to the cost of air ambulance services.

Think of in-flight training exercises that the crew has to go through. Someone has to pay for these exercises and the cost is ultimately borne by the beneficiaries of the services.

The periodic maintenance and upkeep of air ambulances is mandatory in most instances and comes at a very high cost.

There are also licensing and regulation costs which recur periodically.

Extra Costs of Overseas Air Ambulance Services

When a patient needs medical repatriation, the costs go up to dizzying heights. It is not just the fuel that adds to the cost of air ambulance services in such cases.

There may be several permits that need to be obtained when a patient has to be flown overseas which can cost a considerable amount.

Certain parts of the world demand that precautions be taken to avoid contaminations and infections – the cost of which can be significant.

Special precautions need to be taken and more wages need to be paid when a patient has to be transported from a war-torn or unstable region.

Governments across the world and the US need to take a closer look at the rising cost of air ambulance services and come up with a lasting solution for cost containment, lest the people will continue to suffer financially.

Is Affordable Air Ambulance Service on its Way?

For long, Americans have been worried about the costs of opting for an air ambulance service. We have heard horrid tales of people stuck with air ambulance service bills that run into thousands of dollars and insurance companies unwilling to share the burden. The Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District or SEMAAD has now given a glimmer of hope for such people. If the model is adopted widely throughout the country, cost of air ambulance service would no longer be a worry for most American citizens. Let’s learn a bit more about the recent SEMAAD deal.

How is SEMAAD Making Air Ambulance Service Affordable?

Getting to the crux of the deal, the beneficiaries would not have to pay – the amount that is not covered by insurances or other providers – out of pocket. In other words, the medical flight would cost you nothing. The air ambulance service cost benefit currently is being extended to the residents of nine counties that come under SEMAAD. It has struck a contract between the air ambulance service company, Med-Trans Corp and its medical partner Ochsner Hospital. The deal is expected to come through by March next year. The following counties would be covered:

  • Walthall
  • Stone
  • Perry
  • Pearl River
  • Marion
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Greene
  • Forrest
  • Covington

Why is the Air Ambulance Service Move So Important?

The move could act as a guideline for other regions of the United States to follow. In a country where air ambulance service is mainly provided by private players and air ambulance charities are virtually non-existent except for a very few of them, the move is welcome. The contract literally puts life before air ambulance service costs.

SEMAAD also has a contract with Baptist LifeFlight. Both Med-Trans Corp and Baptist LifeFlight air ambulance services would be operating from Bobby L. Chain Municipal Airport in Hattiesburg.

Choosing Your Health Insurance from Air Ambulance Perspective

Most of us have a fair idea of what to look for when going for a health insurance. What we don’t usually look at is the kind of air ambulance transport coverage provided. The medical world is increasingly making use of air ambulance services to get the patients appropriate treatment on time to better the chances of survival. You can never predict when you might need air ambulance services. Here, we discuss a few points that can go a long way in ensuring adequate air ambulance coverage.

Speak to Your Insurance Agent about Air Ambulance Coverage

This is one of the most basic steps in ensuring adequate air ambulance coverage. Plainly ask your insurance agent about it. He or she is bound to disclose this information. Also, you would be educated properly on the kind of extra coverage you stand to get, even if it means spending a little extra in the form of insurance premium.

Are You Satisfied with the Air Ambulance Coverage Offered to You?

Never compromise on the extent of air ambulance cover. If your insurance has limits on the extent of coverage and if you are not fully satisfied with it, explore other options. There are several private players in the health insurance sector. You are sure to find the right match when you look close enough. Some insurance companies have not kept with time and have not increased their coverage limits. It is best you stay away from such companies.

Check the Services of Various Air Ambulance Companies

Most air ambulance service providers help you with insurance cover. They hire specialists who will follow up with the insurance companies to get the reimbursements. Although the choice of actually insisting on a particular air ambulance service provider is slim, you never know, you might be able to opt for a particular one and being prepared never harms. Just pick up the phone and call some of the air ambulance companies and learn how they deal with insurance covers, especially when you have a private insurance.

Keep in mind that the letter of medical necessity issued by a doctor is essential but it does not guarantee air ambulance coverage. Ultimately, it is the medical director of the insurance company who decides whether you get air ambulance coverage or not.

Does Your Travel Insurance Cover International Air Ambulance Evacuation?

The holiday season is here! This is the time of the year when most people head to exotic locations all over the world. Travel insurance is today part of every individual’s holiday planning. You choose to cover minor risks such as losing your belongings that essentially have no financial consequences. You even buy flight insurance to cover your death incase the airplane crashes within the short duration that you travel in it. But have you thought about international air ambulance evacuation coverage? Missing this vital coverage could result in bankruptcy or at least leave you with a huge financial burden.

Why Purchase International Air Ambulance Evacuation Cover?

The exotic places that you travel to might not have the same standards of medical care that your home country provides. According to one estimate only 5 out of every 100,000 tourists ever need international air ambulance evacuation, but when you consider that over 60 million American citizens travelled abroad last year, the number does not seem so small all of a sudden. The need for international air ambulance evacuation actually seems extremely essential.

International Air Ambulance Evacuation Cover is Not as Expensive as You Imagine

One can buy international air ambulance evacuation cover through travel insurance for about $200 to 300. Seems expensive? Think again. Getting back through a commercial airliner with a nurse to accompany you can alone cost about $25,000. A full fledged international air ambulance evacuation can cost you up to $100,000. Also, keep in mind that Medicare does not cover you outside the United States. When you consider the financial risk, spending additional couple hundred dollars for your own safety and wellbeing does not seem all that expensive. Frequent overseas travelers can avail international air ambulance evacuation cover for roughly the same amount through annual plans. With a little thought and adequate cover, you can enjoy this holiday season without any worries at the back of your mind.

Medicare Medical Flight Coverage and Advance Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage

We’ve already discussed situations where Medicare covers medical flight costs. It must be noted in this regard that the coverage is almost always given only when there is an emergency. What if there is a situation where you feel that you are entitled for medical flight coverage by Medicare but the company that provides medical flight services feels otherwise? This is the question we try and answer here.

Disagreement Pertaining to Medical Flight Need

If the medical flight company believes that your situation warrants its service, it will have no problem carrying you to the desired destination. However, if it feels that you do not need medical flight services, you might be asked to sign Advance Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage (ABN). If you strongly believe that Medicare will cover the medical flight cost later, you can sign this piece of paper and get well on your way to the desired destination. The medical flight service provider would have no qualms about it. However, there are some aspects you need to keep in mind.

You Might Have to Pay for the Medical Flight in Advance

Signing the ABN also means that you would bear the cost of the medical flight if Medicare does not cover it. The air ambulance company may ask you to pay the costs in advance and ask you to recover it from Medicare later. It is necessary that the company asks you to sign this document as, otherwise, it may be held responsible for the costs incurred (and not you) in case Medicare does not cover the medical flight cost. You will never be asked to sign an ABN when there is an emergency.

If you refuse to sign an ABN, the medical flight service provider might still take you. Even in a circumstance like this, you may have to pay out of pocket if Medicare refuses to cover the medical flight cost.

Air Ambulance Flights and Medicare Coverage In Case of Death

Death of a loved one is always a sad scenario and the cost of transportation is the last thing that lurks your mind at that point. However, it pays to understand the Medicare coverage for air ambulance flights when there is death. Here, we discuss three possible scenarios and how Medicare treats each of these with respect to cost coverage of air ambulance flights.

Death Prior to Boarding the Air Ambulance Flights

Let’s suppose that decision to transport through air ambulance flights has already been taken. However, the patient dies just before boarding the air ambulance. In this scenario, if the dispatcher still has a “reasonable” opportunity to inform the pilot to abort the air ambulance flight and the aircraft has not taken off (even though it is taxied and is cleared to go), the payment from Medicare would be zero. You can still go ahead with carrying the patient to the desired destination but Medicare does not cover such air ambulance flights.

Death after Air Ambulance Flights Takeoff to Point of Pick-up

Now, we take the scenario where air ambulance flights take off for point of pick-up but the patient dies before loading him or her to the aircraft. In such cases, the air ambulance flights are paid adequate airbase rate without mileage or rural adjustment. A QL modifier will have to be used during the claim in this situation.

Death after the Patient is Loaded to the Air Ambulance Flights

Unfortunately, the patient dies during the flight or upon transfer to the receiving facility. Here, Medicare provides the coverage as if the patient was still alive. The death still does not ensure full coverage. Many a times, people don’t get full coverage of air ambulance flights even if they are alive owing to the nature of care plans.

It must be noted that Medicare coverage of air ambulance flights is very limited. You should further discuss the issue of coverage with your flight coordinator to get a clearer picture beforehand.

Air Ambulance Transport, Medical Insurance and Travel Overseas

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.