September’s Tuesday Talks featured Air Methods’ Emily Ross. She talked about her company’s membership program with assistance from Dee McCluskey, Deputy Chief at Heber-Overgaard Fire Department. Air Methods owns Native Air which is one of the four companies that fly medical helicopters in this area.
McCluskey, with many years of experience in the air ambulance industry, gave many details on the how’s and why’s of this emergency service. He explained what happens in the event of a trauma flight and how the flights, which can be very expensive ($30K-60K plus), may be all or part of the patient’s responsibility, depending on their insurance and circumstances.
At the meeting it was discussed that because of the remoteness of our Rim Communities, transport in emergency situations in air ambulances is fairly commonplace. Membership with one or more of the air ambulance companies helps protect residents who are flown from getting a tremendously high bill for the flight. The patient in an emergency situation has no control over what carrier is chosen or where they fly, so to buy only from one carrier may not help if they are not who flies you. Three of the four carriers in our area offer a membership to residents. For an annual fee they will accept what your medical insurance pays as payment in full, or if you have no insurance, your bill would be paid in full. Notice some of these memberships are only available if you have medical insurance. It is important to note a membership is not an insurance policy.
Three carriers, 1) Air Methods/Native Air, 2) Sunrise and 3) PHI/AirEvac, are on rotation with Show Low Dispatch. In some cases, Guardian Air out of Winslow, is the closest aircraft to the trauma scene and is called to respond even though it’s not in the normal rotation. In an emergency call first responders ask Show Low Dispatch to place an air ambulance on standby. The closest most appropriate company based on their distance from the trauma will be contacted. Once at the scene, paramedics place a call to the on-duty Medical Director at Summit Healthcare to make the decision whether the patient’s condition requires air evacuation. The standby helicopter is then dispatched to the scene.
To give you an idea of membership costs, here are three of the carriers’ membership plans for one year:
Air Methods’ (Native Air): $40/year individual and $75/year household with insurance. (855) 877-2518
Sunrise Platinum Plan membership requires you have medical insurance. Cost is $30/year individual and $45/year household. (928) 532-7700
PHIcares.com $50/year household with insurance, $100/year household without insurance. (888) 435-9744
Guardian Air doesn’t offer a plan at this time but expects one by the end of this year.
Buying a membership from each company (except Guardian) for a household with insurance would total $170 per year.
Currently, the Rim Country Senior/Community Center is looking into the possibility of offering group membership plans which come with a discount to their members. As of press time, Deputy Chief McCluskey was still initializing the details. You would need to be a member of the Center to qualify which is $20 per year per person. Stay tuned…
McCluskey told of a woman who purchased a plan from AirMedCareNetwork.com for $65. She believed she would be covered if flown from our area. McCluskey called them to check, and based on our zip code, they don’t fly here. Her membership will not do her any good unless she needs help in one of their eight bases located in other parts of Arizona. They also are in other states so she would be covered as long as she is one of their areas. This is a changing industry so if you are solicited by a company, check with Heber Overgaard Fire District first before buying and they will verify if the plan covers you in this area.