Tag Archives: FAA

A Quick Guide to Know US Air Ambulance Industry Better – Frequently Used Terms

There’s a lot happening in the US air ambulance industry at the current time with people opposing high bills, law makers coming up with newer regulations, and medical flight companies demanding more accountability from the health insurance industry. These happenings will, ultimately, affect the common US citizens. Here’s a glossary of sorts that allows you to understand certain points pertaining to the US air ambulance industry.

ADA of 1978 – the act that governs US Air Ambulance Industry

ADA stands for Airlines Deregulation Act. It was enacted in the year 1978 and has since governed the aviation industry in general. This is a federal act and prevents the states from interfering in the affairs of US air ambulance service providers when it comes to price, route and service.

FAA Reauthorisation Act

The abbreviation FAA stands for Federal Aviation Administration – the body that regulates aviation services in the US. The Reauthorisation Act is currently under consideration. If passed, it will give the states the ability to interfere in the matters pertaining to price, route and service, but only when it comes to the US air ambulance industry. The Act is a response to people’s demand to the government to look into the skyrocketing medical flight bills.

In-Network Air Ambulance Service Providers

Most US air ambulance companies have an understanding with insurance providers to cover their services, at least in a given location. These medical flight companies are considered “in-network” by the insurance providers, and mostly, full coverage is given if their subscribers opt for these medical flight companies.

Balance Billing

In most instances insurance companies only cover a part of the air ambulance bills. The medical flight companies are forced to cover the remaining money from the patients directly. In other words the balance amount is billed to the consumers.

ADA Pre-emption

The ADA of 1978 is clear that states cannot interfere in the affairs of US air ambulance companies when it comes to price, route and service as mentioned above. If an air ambulance company is sued with regards to any of these, it enjoys pre-emption from such lawsuits.

US Air Ambulance Memberships

Most US air ambulance companies offer annual memberships at a nominal fee. These members enjoy complete insulation from balance billing. The membership is an additional layer of protection over and above the health insurance.

Healthcare Standards in Medical Flight Services and the US Law

Megan Gilbreath was a resident of Abilene, Texas. She was an 18-year-old student who was involved in a motor vehicle accident involving her pickup. She had a rollover accident where she sustained a head injury and a broken leg. A medical flight was quick to respond and she was all set to be transported to the nearest medical facility.

However, one major error was committed. The EMT that belonged to the medical flight service had intubated her wrongly. The tube that was supposed to carry oxygen was inserted into the esophagus instead of her windpipe. As a result she was declared brain dead by the time the medical flight took her to the treating facility. All the while oxygen was being pumped to her stomach instead of her lungs.

Are You Safe on a Medical Flight with Mere FAA Regulations?

It must be noted that FAA is a regulating body for flights of all types and not just medical flights. This means the medical flight service providers don’t really have regulations that govern them when it comes to ensuring adequate medical care on the flight. FAA only has the say when it comes to medical flight safety when flying. It concerns itself with issues such as crew safety in bad weather conditions and medical flight during bad visibility at night.

Who Regulates the Medical Flight when it Comes to Standard of Care?

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 that paved way for using air ambulances during medical emergencies had one major flaw. It exempted the medical flight service providers when it came to “routes, prices, and services.” This loophole allows the medical flight service providers to have their own standards when it comes to services.

This however does not mean that all air ambulance service providers cut costs when it comes to standard of care. Most medical flight operators maintain high standards of medical care. However, in the highly competitive air ambulance sector, it is possible that there are medical flight service providers who cut corners through not-so-well trained or inadequately trained medical staff.

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 does have a provision where the states can regulate the medical aspect of air ambulances; the only condition is that such regulation should not impact the economics of operating a medical flight “significantly.” In essence, there is scope and hope for regulations in this regard.