1. Understanding Bed to Bed Air Ambulance Services
The goal of bed to bed air ambulance service is to maintain the continuity of care. Here the air ambulance specialists would meet the patient in the hospital, transport him/her to the airport in an ambulance and be with the patient until the patient safely reaches the receiving medical facility. This type of air medical transport ensures that the patient is in qualified hands throughout the journey and serves as a reassurance to both the patients and their loved ones. The team even keeps the receiving hospital informed about the medical status of the patient so that necessary measures are already in place.
2. Getting Your Doubts about Medical Flight Services Clarified Firsthand
Most air ambulance companies would have a flight coordinator assigned to you. One of the responsibilities of this individual would be to give you a complete picture about the service being provided from start to end. The person would be qualified enough to answer any queries that you may have and would also accommodate any special needs that you specify. He would ultimately come to you with a written proposal ensuring that you incur minimum costs.
3. Keeping the Cost of a Medical Flight Low
There is no doubt that medical flights are usually expensive; however, taking certain precautions can bring this cost down to a great extent. One of the important factors that decide the cost is the proximity of the treating facility to the aircraft. Lesser distance translates into lesser costs. Another factor is the urgency of transfer. If you can manage to give a few days’ notice in advance, the air ambulance service provider would be able to give you a connecting flight which can bring the costs down significantly.
4. Payment Checks Before Availing Air Ambulance Services
If you are dealing with a reputed medical air transportation service provider, you will always get a written proposal beforehand. You need to exercise caution to verify that all the costs are included in this proposal. You can ask your flight coordinator and confirm this. Ask straight up whether any “hidden costs” are involved. You might be expected to pay before you avail the services regardless of it being domestic or international air ambulance service. If you have any particular preference when it comes to payment modes such as payment through credit cards, debit cards, checks, etc., make them known.
5. Using a Broker to Avail Air Ambulance Services
Using a broker is not a bad thing. However, there are certain precautions that you must take. Since the broker does not actually own the air ambulances, he might not be in the know of everything about the service. Also, since he might be brokering for different air ambulance service providers, there might be a bit of inconsistency in services. Also, you might need to pay a bit extra as the broker would obviously charge a commission for his or her efforts. While paying a commission should be okay, you should insist that all the necessary information be provided to you to avoid any nasty surprises at the last minute. The best thing however is to take a bit of time and look for the best air ambulance service provider yourself and arrange an air ambulance. Moreover, there are several US air ambulance services available today and finding the right one for you will not be all that tough.
6. Insurance Coverage of Air Ambulance Costs
Several insurance plans cover air ambulance services but not all. It is therefore imperative that you check with your insurance provider beforehand. The insurance companies usually lay down certain criteria which are to be met by the patient for the coverage. The foremost of this would be the certification of the physician that the patient has a “medical necessity” for air ambulance and that any other means of travel could adversely impact the health of the patient. The insurance may have a clause which specifies that the patient has to be transported to the nearest medical facility. You also need to check the maximum benefit that the insurance would provide, as you might have to personally fund the remaining amount.
7. Understanding “Medical Necessity” for Air Ambulance Transport Coverage
In order to prevent misuse of air ambulance services that can cause a financial burden, insurance companies have clearly defined what constitutes a medical necessity. In fact, the American Medical Association has laid down a “Model Managed Care Contract” for this very purpose. It says that a qualified medical doctor can – for the purposes of diagnosing, preventing, or treating a disease, illness, or any symptoms – suggest air ambulances provided, the need is:
- In agreement with the widely accepted medical care standards
- Medically viable in terms of extent, frequency, site and duration
- Not merely for monetary benefit of purchasers or health plan, or only for convenience of the doctor, medical care provider or patient.
8. Medicare and Air Ambulance Costs
Most air ambulance service providers will offer billing Medicare directly. However, the cost coverage would be limited to what Medicare actually agrees to reimburse, and you might have to pay the rest out of pocket. Also, there are specific situations in which Medicare covers the cost of medical air services.
9. Help with Ascertaining Insurance Coverage of Medical Flight Services
Most air medical transport service providers will assist you in knowing the coverage you can expect from your insurance provider. In fact, a good organization would have reimbursements specialists at their end. They would not only help you get the pre-authorization but also go a step ahead and take the responsibility of submitting letters of medical necessity, claims forms, and other such relevant documents.
10. Cost of Air Ambulance Services in the Absence of Insurance
Fortunately, the United States has some of the best medical care facilities in the world. So, in most instances the medical travel is within the country. A typical US air ambulance service can cost you just under $10,000. However, this is just an average estimate and the price can vary depending on the distance that the critically ill patient has to travel. Again, factors like pre-scheduling the flight can play a major factor in bringing down the expenses. Also, eliminating a medical flight broker can save you some money. The cost of international air ambulances services can be significantly higher.
11. Alternatives that Can Save Money as Opposed to Air Ambulances
air ambulance service
is the easiest way to organize things, it is not always the cheapest. Some companies also offer you more cost-effective alternatives such as:
- Boarding the patient on a commercial airliner with qualified medical staff and equipment
- Utilizing commercial airline stretcher service where the last few seats are removed in order to accommodate the patient and the medical equipment
- If the time involved in arranging the air ambulance flights is too long, you can choose ground travel with enough number of drivers to cover the distance along with the right medical personnel and equipment.
12. Understanding Air Ambulance Cards
Air ambulance cards are best described as membership programs that enable medical air transport domestically and internationally with just a single phone call. These can be ideal for people who frequently travel beyond their borders into countries where there are communication barriers and inadequate medical facilities. The carriers of air ambulance cards can rest assured that in case of any health eventuality, they can safely board air ambulance flights and return to their home country for quality treatment. The air ambulance card providers usually have worldwide air ambulance networks that enable them to provide a facility like this to their clients.
13. The Need for Air Ambulance Cards
Air ambulance cards act as an additional layer of protection beyond travel health insurances. While the best that travel health insurance can do is provide you with very limited medical evacuation coverage, air ambulance cards give you the complete solution. Most importantly, these cards bring with them the peace of mind that you are safe all the time. However, it must be noted that these cards are not intended to be a replacement for travel health insurance.
14. Check Whether Travel Health Insurance is as Good as Air Ambulance Card
Your credit card or travel health insurance might offer you evacuation through air ambulances to the nearest hospital in the country you are travelling or the nearest hospital in your home country. Air ambulance cards, however, go a step further. These cards will allow you to be air lifted to the hospital of your choice. Most importantly, you will not have to go through the approval and evaluation process which is a must with most medical insurances. You are also freed from the tedious claims process. Although the treating physician is consulted by the air ambulance card to verify the health criteria for transport, the ultimate decision of availing the air ambulance service is taken by the member.
15. Understanding the Cost Advantage of Air Ambulance Cards
While domestic air ambulance transport can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000, international air ambulance services can be quite expensive going up to a $100,000. Moreover, you would have little time to arrange the money as the entire cost would have to be borne upfront. In stark contrast, when you have an air ambulance card, all you pay is a membership fee. You can also include your family in the membership depending on the plan that you choose.
16. Checks to Ensure Quality Care when Choosing an Air Ambulance Service
With the health of your loved one at stake and considerable cost involvement, it is natural for you to wonder whether you are in good hands. Therefore, before zeroing down on a particular air ambulance service, check whether:
- The medical air transportation service is licensed by Federal Aviation Administration or FAA
- The air ambulance service company has a medical director
- The medical air transport company has malpractice and liability insurance
- You are dealing with a broker or a company, which offers an air ambulance service that has a wide enough network
- The medical flights are licensed in the state as air ambulance
- There are enough qualified and trained air ambulance specialists in the medical flight
- The air medical transport company provides bed to bed service
These simple questions to your flight coordinator will afford you peace of mind and ensure safety of the patient.
17. Ensuring that the Aircraft is Safe for Medical Air Transport
There are two aspects to reliable air ambulance companies. The first is qualified staff and the second is the safety of the aircraft itself. Ensuring that the air ambulance service that you choose is FAA licensed is the first step. The regulations laid down by the FAA ensure that the operation and maintenance of the aircraft are of a certain standard. It also ensures that you have a well-trained pilot at your service. In addition to this, you might want to inquire about the kind of annual training the pilot is given. You would also want to look at their safety track record.
18. Evaluating the Quality of Medical Care on the Air Ambulance
Check whether the air ambulance companies that you choose give a full disclosure about their staff and their experience. You do not want less experienced, minimum wage employees working multiple shifts taking care of you. Ensure that you have registered nurses and critical care flight paramedics on-board. Never shy away from asking your flight coordinator such questions.
19. Check Number of Personnel that Accompany the Patient on the Medical Flight
A standard team usually consists of at least two medical professionals one of whom is a nurse and the other a medical doctor. This can increase depending on the medical needs of the patient and the presence of paramedics might also be warranted.
20. Medications and Equipment On-board the Medical Flight
Medical emergencies have a way of making their way to patients without warning. Ask your flight coordinator whether basic equipment such as defibrillators, stretchers, heart monitors, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, equipment for resuscitation, and intravenous drug administration equipment would be readily available in the air ambulance. The medical flight also needs to carry the essential drugs that are vital for the health of the patient.
21. Health Precautions When Traveling Abroad
While air ambulance services would be available to you through most parts of the world, there are certain precautions that you need to take so that you have immediate quality medical care at hand. Looking at your insurance coverage must be your top priority. Your domestic insurance will not cover your expenses in case you are injured or ill overseas. You might also want a list of nearest hospitals that are easily accessible to medical flights.
22. Insurance Coverage When Travelling Overseas
The social security Medicare does not cover your health eventualities overseas. Not just that your private insurance provider too might not cover you internationally. Hospitals in many countries demand that you pay the treatment costs upfront. So, the first step would be to evaluate your insurance coverage and check how well you are covered when you are travelling abroad. Depending on the coverage, you can then seek additional insurance. Remember, the air ambulance services will carry you back to your home country, but until then, you may need to fend for yourself.
23. Travel Insurance and Travel Medical Insurance
You invest a certain amount when you travel abroad such as expenses for travel, stay, etc. These expenses are covered by your travel insurance depending on the coverage limit. Travel medical insurance on the other hand insures you against illnesses and injuries when you travel overseas. Most countries demand that tourists have both travel insurance as well as travel medical insurance. A good idea would be to check whether your travel medical insurance covers air ambulance services so that you are assured of quality medical care in your own country in case the need arises.
24. Check Whether the Air Ambulance Service has Centralized Flight Operations
Having centralized flight operations has several advantages. The main one being that the scheduling automatically becomes more efficient. This efficiency translates into quicker transit and lower costs. Such air ambulance companies would be able to check the status of air ambulance worldwide and set you up with one that suits your location and medical necessities best.
25. Assistance You Can Expect from the US Government if Disabled Abroad
If locating appropriate medical services is an issue, the US Consulate would help you with that. It would also assist you with quick transfer of funds if the need arises. However, the responsibility to pay your expenses incurred on medical care and transfer such as air ambulance transport would entirely rest on your shoulders. The US Embassy website too has a lot of useful information to safeguard your health when travelling abroad.
26. Flying with a Medical Escort Service instead of Air Ambulance
While you might need to travel utilizing an aircraft for medical necessities, an air ambulance service as such may not be warranted. In a situation like this, you can save money and time by utilizing the service of a commercial medical escort. This specialist would be able to provide you services like sedation, oxygen, cardiac monitoring, pain management, and would take care of the patient’s other essential medical needs. The medical escort would accompany the patient throughout the journey until he or she safely reaches the desired destination. To qualify for a service like this, your doctor will have to approve that you would be able to sit for the duration of the flight without adverse health repercussions. Most companies that offer air ambulance services also offer medical escort services.
27. Understanding Critical Care Air Ambulance Services
There are times when a patient needs facilities that are as good as an intensive care unit when travelling through air ambulances. This is where critical care air ambulance services come into picture. This service virtually can transform an aircraft into a flying intensive care unit with equipment like intra-aortic balloon pumps, newborn incubators, saturation monitors and other high-technology medical equipment. The flight would also have onboard air ambulance specialists who are well-versed with tackling any eventualities that the patient’s medical condition can cause. The care coordination in such instances has to be very precise as there is little room for delay or error.
28. Understanding Medical Repatriation with International Air Ambulance Services
Returning to the home country or medical repatriation is often a complex procedure. You need experienced personnel who can arrange the repatriation on time so that the health of the patient remains unaffected. At times, this can mean going through complex procedures. Having an in-depth understanding of international rules and regulations is a must. An international air ambulance service that employs bilingual individuals helps in such situations. The repatriation may demand that the service provider is well versed with procedures such as preparing citizenship papers, coordinating with foreign consulates, and taking care of clearances and customs issues.
29. Organ Procurement through Medical Air Services
Organ recipients usually have to wait for months or years together on the waiting list to receive an organ donation such as kidneys, liver, or eyes. The transit time from the donor’s location to the recipient’s location is always critical to keep the organ viable. Then, there are issues such as maintenance of the organ in the right medical environment. Air ambulance services play a major part in this live-saving effort which is extremely time sensitive. Communication, coordination, ground staff and equipment play a huge role in such situations.
30. The Affiliations that Matter when Choosing Air Ambulance Services
The fact that the air ambulance service is affiliated with either all or several of the organizations listed below ensures that the patient is in safe hands. These affiliations demand that the air ambulance services maintain certain standards in order to be accredited. The major ones are:
- National Association of EMS Physicians
- National Association of Air Medical Communication Specialists
- National Air Transportation Association
- European Aero-Medical Institute
- Emergency Nurses Association
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses
- Association of Air Medical Services
- Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems