Several federal agencies in the United States of America are now coming together to enforce the No Surprises Act. Thus far, the air ambulance industry has been able to charge the patients arbitrarily and the state governments have not been able to do anything about it. Now, this is all set to change with the federal authority weighing down on this issue. The main purpose of the act is to avoid any surprise billing or balance billing where the recipient of the service is liable to pay a part of the amount. The bill will come into effect next year and the hope is that people will no longer have to avoid healthcare due to the fear of high prices.
How will The Bill Affect Air Ambulance Cost?
People who come under Medicaid and Medicare are not liable to pay any out of pocket expenses. This is because the air ambulance companies are not allowed to send requests for payments to them. However, a large portion of the United States also relies on private health insurance. This is where the problem lies. With private insurances, the amount is only covered when a person uses in-network air ambulance services. Any service that is out of the network attracts a cost that is to be borne by the consumer.
The No Surprises Act Promises to Change Things
With the new No Surprises Act that is slated to come into effect in the year 2022, air ambulance companies will not be able to send requests for part or full payments to the consumers. Instead, they will have to make do with what the insurance companies disburse. If there is a dispute regarding the monetary compensation for the service, it will have to be arbitrated among the insurance providers and the air ambulance companies. The move will be a big relief for people seeking emergency air ambulance services.
The air ambulance industry and the insurance industry will soon be coming to a point of intersection as surprise billing practices will come to an end in less than a year in the United States. There has been great public support for this move by the government. The states that were, so far, unable to regulate the air ambulance companies owing to certain federal laws are now assured that prices can be brought under control. At the outset, it seems that everything will go well in the days to come. However, it is important that people look at both sides of the coin and weigh the cons too. Let’s take a look at some of them and the impact they can have on the people.
Private Air Ambulance Companies May Pull Back
While the lawmakers have been enthusiastic in forming the bill to end surprising bills, it must be noted that their involvement in providing air ambulance services to people has been next to nil. In an attempt to appease the masses, they may be shooing away new entrants to the air ambulance market. The United States, unlike countries like the United Kingdom, depend hugely on private players to keep the air ambulances flying. In this context, it must be noted that costs are must cheaper in the United Kingdom, owing to the fact that these companies are mostly charity based. Their funding mostly comes from corporates, the government and the local communities.
The Rural United States May Suffer
An air ambulance company that runs the least number of flights is usually the most expensive. The reason being the cost of maintenance is distributed among a small customer base. This is often the case with rural areas where the population is thin and the demand for air ambulance services is low. If the prices are standardized, air ambulance companies may be discouraged to serve such regions. For the rural United States, which is already suffering from a choppy medical infrastructure, it is not good news.
It is widely believed that the new air ambulance regulation that is aimed at putting curbs to surprising billing practices will come into effect at the beginning of the next year. What it holds for the common man is a mystery to much of the country at this point in time. Most people believe that it will put an end to the unexcepted huge medical and air ambulance bills. While this is true to a very large extent, it is not the entire story. There is more to it. We try and highlight those points that one must know fully.
Air Ambulance Billing Can Be an Individual Choice
You will always be encouraged to take an in-network air ambulance service. The cost will be a concern only for the insurance and medical flight service providers. But what if you want an air ambulance service that is out of your network? Upon giving written consent, you can opt for any medical service that you choose. However, the insurance company may not cover the full amount and you may have to pay the service provider on your own.
The Coverage May Depend on Your Insurance Plan
Co-payments will remain as previously. The only difference is that the co-pay amount will not change based on the network. The regulation is applicable only when the service is provided by a non-participating service provider in emergency situations. This part of the regulation will come in handy in instances where the patient is not the decision-maker. For instance, the call to avail of an air ambulance service may be taken by the treating medical professional during an emergency. The patient might not even be able to give consent. The clearance of the resultant bill does not come under the responsibility of the patient anymore.
From time to time we bring you the latest developments in the air ambulance world. From the changes that the pandemic has brought about to the struggles of air ambulance charities to stay afloat, there is much happening in the space. We cover a few that have made the headlines and turned heads of the world.
Prince William Helps the Air Ambulance Industry Again
The cause of the air ambulance industry, which mainly runs on charity in the UK, is something that is very close to the heart of Prince William who has been a pilot himself. He has been seen helping organizations from time to time through various interventions. This time around, he has lent the lawn of his Kensington Palace residence to aid medical helicopters to refuel amid the pandemic. Without this option, air ambulance vehicles would have to travel an additional 20 miles. The prince is currently residing in their country home in Norfolk.
Air Ambulance Services are Serving Several Countries Amid the Pandemic
Evacuation of people has been a task that several air ambulance companies have taken up during the pandemic. Take for instance REVA a Florida-based medical flight company. Recently, the company had flown people to various parts of the United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom. In this context, it must be noted that cross-border evacuation can be quite complex, especially with lockdowns in several parts of the world.
Great Western Air Ambulance Charity Reports Shortage of Funds
This UK-based charity has reported that it has witnessed a drop of 250,000 British pounds in its funds. The organization relies heavily on public funds to stay afloat. It had been of service to over 1,700 patients last year with each mission costing about 2,000 British pounds. With the lockdown restrictions easing slowly, the demand for its services is expected to grow and the charity is sure to be in a fix to meet this demand.
Here is some food for thought – ever wondered how many missions are spread around the world? According to a 2017 statistic, the number stands at 430 thousand. Close to 50 thousand of them around from the United States. These people do good work around the world helping people with education to healthcare. What happens when these missionaries get sick or are gravely injured? You guessed it right. Air ambulance services come to their rescue and fly them back to their home in the United States. Most of these missionaries work in the remotest parts of the African continent where healthcare can be less than adequate.
The Cost of International Air Ambulance Services Can Be Steep
The air ambulance cost can go up to 100 thousand dollars. Missionaries, of course, are compelled to rely on fund-raising efforts in order to be able to afford these air ambulance services. A Tampa-based company has changed this scenario to a very large extent. The air ambulance company specializes in offering international evacuation services specifically for missionaries. Not just that, the company has gone a step ahead and created customized insurances for evacuating missionaries from all over the world.
The Name of the Air Ambulance Company is Jet ICU
Almost all missions that are conducted by this air ambulance company involve missionaries across the world. There is no corner of the world that it hesitates to travel. Of course, it has also conducted evacuations of people who are not missionaries. The company owns a fleet of six fixed-wing aircraft and an employee pool of around 75. The customized insurance that the company has tried up with is called Missionary Travel Association, through the help of Lloyd’s of London. Most of the churches today across the United States rely on it today.
There was a time when simulators were known to be just an adjunct to the real training for pilots. The air ambulance industry would not recognize training received through simulators. However, the perception is changing today and fast. Increasingly, simulators are gaining in popularity as well as acceptance when it comes to pilot training. Today, they are an essential part of pilot training and many air ambulance companies rely on such simulators to keep their pilots well trained. Realistic helicopter simulator training is simply not what it used to be a few years ago.
Technology Adoption of the Air Ambulance Industry
The air ambulance industry has always been quick in adopting the latest technology. Thanks to the high processing speeds that we enjoy today, virtual pilot training can be achieved without any lags in the experience. The result is a realistic feel. Scenarios that cannot be produced in real life can be created in the virtual world today. This enriches the experience of the pilots during training, making them well-equipped for air ambulance rescues. Even highly experienced pilots swear by the life-like experience that these simulators are able to produce. Countries like Australia rely on this technology to provide rotary air ambulance training. Today, there are programs that are approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of the country.
Flight-Specific Simulation is Today a Reality
Fixed-wing flight training has, since long, relied on simulation to a great extent. However, when it came to rotary-wing the prevalence of simulation training was sparse, but this is fast changing. All it takes is relating the equipment to computer programs that are powered by state-of-the-art computer processors. The result is a rich experience for the pilots, making them well-prepared for unexpected situations. The day is not too far when air ambulance pilots will receive licenses based only on simulation experience.
This week has seen some important developments in the air ambulance industry. However, the news has been a mixed bag of both good and bad. One thing though is for certain, the developments are quite interesting and noteworthy. Here, we have chosen the top three.
The US Government Agrees to Compensate for Destroyed Air Ambulance Helipad
Recently, a helicopter belonging to the United States Defence had destroyed a domestic helipad in the UK. The helipad belonged to Cambridge University Hospitals. The destruction was an inadvertent incident, wherein the structures within the air ambulance helipad were ripped off as the defense helicopter took off. It had left the site not worthy of landing air ambulance vehicles. However, it has now been reported that the United States Government has offered to repair the structures. Most of the air ambulance industry in the UK is charity-based and the steep cost of repairs is certainly a burden.
The US Supreme Court Ruling About Air Ambulance Bills
Texas Supreme Court had ruled that insurance companies were only liable to pay air ambulance service providers a sum that is deemed fair and reasonable when it comes to worker’s compensation cases. The issue had long been a bone of contention in the state. The decision was appealed against and had reached the US Supreme Court. The state’s ruling has now been held up by the top court of the country. The case was primarily fought by PHI Air Medical.
An International Surge in Demand Owing to Rising Pandemic in India
It is a well-known fact that India is struggling to cope up with the rising COVID-19 cases. At the same time, foreign nationals living in the country are looking for an exit. While some of them have already left, the unfortunate few who have contracted the virus are looking at the air ambulance industry to exit the country, leading to high demand.
There have been a lot of developments when it comes to the air ambulance industry in recent times. The most predominant of these changes has been the attempt by the Federal Government of the United States to bring down the surprise billing practices. While the attempt is sure to help the patients, enabling them to use air ambulance services without the worry of payments, there are several issues that will bother the industry in the coming days. With insurance coverage being felt inadequate, the margins of the industry are going to dwindle down drastically. How can the industry adapt? This is the question we try to answer.
Air Ambulance Companies Need the Right Perspective
Most of the air ambulance services in the United States are funded by private equity and the organizations are obviously for-profit. A drastic dip in revenues can mean that a lot of the players will start looking at an exit strategy. However, this can impact the nation adversely as it directly affects the coverage, especially for rural America where healthcare infrastructure is less than adequate. This inadequacy necessitates air ambulance services during emergencies. If air ambulance companies shut down, it could be a fatal problem for this population.
The Need to Work Cohesively by Industry Players
It is time that the major players in the air ambulance industry look at cutting down the costs. One effective way of achieving this is a collaboration between companies. This will necessitate fewer resources as they can be shared. Consequently, the cost burden will be significantly reduced. It is also a time to look at acquiring smaller players who were anyway reeling under competitive pressure. Also, lesser competition means that each player will have a greater piece of the market pie. Profits will, therefore, remain optimum as the economy of scale will kick in.
Countries like the United Kingdom and India are already reeling under the second wave of COVID-19 infections. Nations like Australia and New Zealand are making it tough for people to enter their countries, protecting themselves against a potential spike in virus cases. Whatever said and done, it seems increasingly inevitable that the world, including the United States, will see the second wave of the pandemic. Instead of denying this fact, prudence lies in preparing for it. Air ambulance services are again going to be a big part of tackling this problem.
The Air Ambulance Industry is Better Prepared
The world knows a lot about protecting itself against the Coronavirus today. From the perspective of air ambulance services, the industry as a whole has adopted a sanitization protocol to protect the frontline workers like paramedics and pilots, apart from the patients. In the days to come, the heartlands of the United States are again going to need air ambulance services to get adequate treatment. In this context, it must be noted that the infection hits the older generation the hardest. Much of the rural population in the United States falls under this category.
Children May Be More Vulnerable in the Next Wave
There are at least three new variants of the virus present in the world today. Sadly, it has been witnessed that, in rare cases, even the vaccinated individuals are contracting the virus. Moreover, people do not fear the virus today as much as they did earlier. This has resulted in lax self-sanitization measures. All this could snowball into a huge spike and the air ambulance industry needs to be prepared in case the caseload is very high, especially in the rural United States where the number of hospital beds is still considered inadequate to handle a huge spike in numbers.
The citizens of the United Kingdom are the forerunners when it comes to raising funds for charitable causes that involve air ambulance services. Rightly so, because the country’s air ambulance services are mostly charity-based and do not get full funding from corporate houses or the government. They mainly depend on the community that they serve to keep them flying. However, the pandemic has made it rather tough to raise funds through public events. Thankfully, people have been sensitive to this issue and have been trying their best to support their local air ambulance services.
A Chocolate Air Ambulance
Shaped like a helicopter, a whopping 220 lb chocolate that stands at about 7 feet high and 9 feet long is the latest charity effort in the United Kingdom that is making waves. Reinforced with a customized steel frame, it is not just a charity effort but a crowd-puller. Created entirely out of public donations, the hope is that people will not only pay to see this wonder but also pay to eat a small chunk of it. The money raised like this would go to the air ambulance charity. The feat has been made possible by Jan Hansen who is from Folkingham, Lincolnshire.
The Reason Behind Creating the Edible Chopper
The astounding chocolate chopper was the fund-raising choice to create awe among people and grab their attention. Mr. Hansen did reveal that he had his doubts midway as he was creating this edible wonder. However, the local charity-based air ambulance services that he often sees flying high were the inspiration for him to keep going. The chocolate chopper is currently on display right behind Mr. Hansen’s shop. He also revealed that he was well aware of the struggles being faced by the local air ambulance charities due to the COVID-19 pandemic and decided to lend a helping hand.