Imagine being able to utilize air ambulance services, not just to the “nearest appropriate medical facility” but to a facility near your own home. Wouldn’t that be something that would make you really comfortable? Most insurance companies do not offer you such privileges but there is hope, especially when community members are able to come together to increase their bargaining capacity. When a community sits across the table to do business with air ambulance coverage providers, the sheer number of community members increases the bargaining capacity. For the service providers this translates into huge business and for you cheaper and more efficient air ambulance coverage.
Looking at Air Ambulance Industry Statistics
We have already mentioned earlier that more than 550,000 patients make use of air ambulance services each year in the United States. These patients have to shell out anywhere between $12,000 and $25,000 for their air ambulance transport (considering the national average of 52 miles per flight). If the requirement for air ambulance is to fly overseas the amount can go well into six figures.
We have already seen that most insurance companies shy away from covering the charges entirely. Also, most of them simply do not cover overseas air ambulance travel.
Air Ambulance Membership Programs and Community Associations
There are several air ambulance membership programs available throughout the United States today. These programs allow medical care seekers to fly via air ambulance services during emergencies to the hospital of their choice. The cost of such membership is not usually high. Also, if a community association ties up with such a service provider, the cost of membership goes down even further. In the wake of rising air ambulance costs throughout the country, such an arrangement is the best option to avoid getting tangled in high air ambulance costs.
It must also be noted that choosing or refusing air ambulance services is not in the hands of the patients during emergencies. It is a call taken by the medical professionals on the scene.
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.
A medical flight is not always necessary to fly a patient domestically or even internationally, and commercial airline stretcher can be a great alternative. However, it must be noted that the stretcher cannot always substitute a medical flight that is equipped with advanced patient care systems. But what if a patient doesn’t need an advanced patient care system? For a patient to fly using commercial airline stretcher, the foremost concern is stability and the suitability to fly, which is determined by the treating physician.
More about Commercial Airline Stretcher
Unlike the medical flight where the patient has the entire flight to himself, commercial airline stretcher uses a part of a regular flight. A few seats are usually taken off to accommodate the patient in a sleeping position on the stretcher, and also to have all necessary medical equipment. The relatives or loved ones of the patient can easily travel along with the patient as there is no constraint for space.
Scheduling a commercial airline stretcher is much easier as the flight would anyway be heading to the destination. However, the patient might need a longer ground transport as the aircraft would only land in the designated area. The cost of the commercial airline stretcher is much lower than a medical flight as it is not a dedicated medical flight for the patient.
Similarities between Medical Flight and Commercial Airline Stretcher
For one, the patient is required to obtain clearance before opting for the stretcher, just the way one does with a medical flight. The provider who offers you the stretcher service will most likely arrange for ground transport as well and coordinate with the receiving facility. The medical team and necessary supplies such as medications and medical equipments too would be arranged.
At the end of the day, making the choice between a medical flight and commercial airline stretcher largely depends on the condition of the patient and the decision of the treating doctor.
There are certain non-emergency situations which can warrant air ambulance transport as apposed to other means of medical transportation. This could even be for diagnostic purpose. If the insurance is to cover this amount, the statement delineating the necessity for air ambulance transport must come from the treating physician. The amount would then be covered by the insurance provider of the patient.
What if you don’t have insurance? This is when you really need to start thinking about the cost. Typically air ambulance transport utilizing a twin-engine airplane would cost about $2500 for a 55-mile flight. The amount can go up to $50,000 for longer distances within the country and international flights can cost above $200,000. The cost is most of the times unavoidable.
Having Air Ambulance Transport Membership Can Help
Air ambulance memberships come in various forms. Some memberships are specifically designed for international travel. They give you the security of travelling abroad without worrying about air ambulance transport costs to your home country in case of emergencies. There is usually a nominal annual fee involved.
Certain other type of memberships give you the liberty of paying only such amount that is not covered by the insurance company. For instance, if the cost of air ambulance transport was $100,000 and the insurance pays only $80,000, you would have to pay out of pocket in case you don’t have a membership. Having a membership rids you of this worry.
Things to Keep in Mind to Ensure Adequate Air Ambulance Transport Coverage
Most of the memberships are provided by individual air ambulance service providers. One needs to check out whether the provider you choose has a good network in your region. Checking whether your insurance provider has a tie up with any air ambulance transport company is also vital. If you are travelling abroad, check your travel insurance, and if need be, buy separate coverage, especially if you are going for a high-risk adventure-filled vacation.
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.
National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has recently issued an alert with regards to air ambulance insurance coverage. The alert goes on to point out that more and more people are getting buried under the air ambulance cost burden when insurance providers fail to cover the costs. It estimates that an average air ambulance flight is about 52 miles and the costs can vary between 12 to 15 thousand dollars and in some cases can exceed 100,000 dollars.
Why is Air Ambulance Transport so Expensive?
People often wonder why air ambulance transport is so expensive. One of the reasons is, unlike countries such as UK where air ambulances are usually run by charities, in the US, these are mostly run commercial operators. The initial cost of an air ambulance itself is a whopping 6 million dollars on average. The companies obviously want to cover the cost quicker. When you add the cost of medical supplies, aircraft maintenance, and air ambulance specialists, the amount goes even higher.
Getting to Know Your Air Ambulance Transport Coverage is Vital
For one, international air ambulance services are not covered by Medicare. It is almost impossible to negotiate the rates when medical experts suggest that air ambulance services are a must for patient survival. However, it is wise to know some things beforehand. Learn about the air ambulance service providers that your insurance covers. Know that there is a cost attached when a family member or members accompany the patient. Also some policies only cover certain types of aircrafts.
Simple Steps to Ensure Adequate Air Ambulance Transport Coverage
The best time to think about air ambulance transport coverage is now, when you have no medical emergency. Read your health insurance policy closely and find out about the coverage that it provides. If your insurance company has provisions for extra coverage, pay an additional amount to get such facilities. If your insurance company fails to offer you adequate air ambulance transport coverage, it is wise to look for another company that does. In the end, you don’t want to get into a financial obligation that you cannot carry.