Air Ambulance Transport Provider and Air National Guard Perform Air Ambulance Transfer Drill

The Air National Guard teamed up with REVA Inc., which is the largest dedicated fixed-wing air ambulance transport provider in the Americas to perform an air ambulance transfer drill. The drill, known as Empire Strike, is a two-day exercise on medical evacuation and was carried out at the Schenactady County Airport, at which the REVA northeast base is located.

Wing-to-Wing Transfer Simulation Carried Out

The two teams carried out their exercise using REVA’s Human Patient Simulator, which was used as a mock patient. They practiced how to unload the patient from the C-130 personnel carrier owned by the Air National Guard. And they practiced how to transfer and load the patient onto REVA’s Learjet 35A air ambulance.

This cooperative training exercise was organized with the help of a year-long design effort made by Stephen Hallenbeck, who’s captain of the Air National Guard. Hallenbeck holds the position of a critical care RN at REVA and also the lead exercise planner of the 109th Airlift Wing’s 139th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

Cooperation from Air Ambulance Transport Team

Both teams were able to work together effortlessly also due to the assistance of REVA’s Field Training Officer, Robbie MacCue, who supported the planning effort. Hallenbeck had commented that the training was a unique opportunity for the two teams to build practical experiences and skills that they can use in real-world disaster scenarios.

According to Calvin Hargaray, REVA’s Safety Management Systems Manager, the drills involved mass casualty scenarios that helped the air ambulance transport team put their Emergency Response Program to the test. Hargaray said that overall the experience promoted the company’s safety culture, which is gradually growing and gave them clearer insights on what to expect.

This drill was the third one executed within the past six years. Hallenbeck has stated that they plan to conduct drills like these once every two years.

STARS Air Ambulance Carries Out Record Number of Medical Flights in July

STARS Air Ambulance, which is Manitoba’s contracted service provider of medical flights, broke a record for the month of July. In the past month, they completed a record number of flights with their crews responding to 95 emergencies. In 2016 of the same month, STARS Air Ambulance had completed 65 missions.

Spike in Emergencies During Summer

According to STARS’ base director Grant Therrien, their air ambulance crews often have to respond to emergency situations one after the other. Their crew would return to base from an incident only to refuel and respond to another incident. And every summer, they expect to see a spike in the number of emergencies because people spend more time outside and are at higher risk of getting into an accident.

Improved Response Times for Medical Flights by STARS

For the month of July, STARS saw 54 scene calls and 41 inter-facility calls as well as 40 medical emergencies and 25 trauma calls. Among these incidents were 25 vehicle crashes and five of them were involving ATVs.

Considering the number of medical flights STARS has had to respond to in July alone, they expect to see a total of about 700 calls throughout the year. This would be a significant increase from 2016, during which they responded to 619 calls.

And now that STARS has fully integrated their service within the province’s emergency response system, they have also seen a reduction in response times. This means they have been available for medical calls a lot more than before.

Additionally, their ability to use the helipad at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre has helped them in reducing their response time significantly. The service provided by STARS has improved as well after their technicians were required to undergo more training.

North Dakota Hospitals Required to Disclose Coverage of Air Ambulance Flights

Starting from August 2, 2017 hospitals in North Dakota now have to disclose whether or not a patient’s insurance covers the cost of air ambulance flights. This new legislation came about as a result of constant reports from patients who received sky-high air ambulance bills unexpectedly. This new requirement will ensure that hospitals maintain transparency before transporting patients using air ambulance helicopters.

Increasing Complaints of Sky-High Bills

While the process of transporting patients from one hospital to another seems pretty straightforward, many patients receive fair warning about how much the transportation would cost them. Between 2013 and July 2016, there were 32 complaints to the state Insurance Department from patients who were hit with unexpectedly high air ambulance bills.

In total, the 32 complaints amounted to $1.7 million for the cost of air ambulance flights. On an average, each of these flights cost about $55,000. According to the state Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread, air ambulance helicopters are crucial for saving lives but they have recently been over-utilized even in non-emergency cases.

Legislation to Ease the Cost of Air Ambulance Flights

In addition to requiring hospitals to provide mandatory notice about air ambulance coverage, the legislation will also help control overcharging by air ambulance providers to a significant extent. From January 1, 2018 air ambulance providers that do not have an agreement with major insurance companies in North Dakota will be required to charge only a limited amount for their services.

They will be required to charge only the average amount charged by companies that do have agreements with insurers in the state. This should prevent air ambulance providers from charging exorbitant rates to their patients.

According to Godfread and Senator Judy Lee, who sponsored the bill, this new legislation is a regulation on insurance coverage and not on the services provided by air ambulance providers. So it should withstand any legal challenge.

GAO Probes Rapid Rise in Air Ambulance Transport Costs

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report on July 25 about the rapidly increasing prices of air ambulance transport. Within a five-year period, the median price for travelling by an air ambulance helicopter increase from $15,000 to $30,000. This is about two-times increase in the cost of travelling by air ambulance.

Increasing Concerns Resulting in Probe

The study by the GAO started to evaluate the concerns of patients who received exorbitant air ambulance bills. These patients had little to no choice in getting transported by an air ambulance because of the emergency situations they were in. And they would then be hit with bills that have resulted in “devastating financial impacts” on them.

Air ambulance charges that have to be paid under Medicare are under a fee schedule control. But for non-Medicare patients, they can get billed the balance of the total bill and the payment made by their private health insurer.

Thorough Investigation on Air Ambulance Transport Costs

For their investigation, the office analyzed data collected between 2010 and 2014 regarding air ambulance prizes. The data was taken from a private health insurance database and from the Baltimore-based Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They also interviewed 26 stakeholders, which included eight air ambulance providers.

The office also interviewed officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation and from CMS to determine whether the federal government could make any changes and what are the potential actions to take.

The GAO report also found that this increase in air ambulance transport costs could be a result of market concentration of providers. It would be good to note that 3/4th of all the helicopters in the industry are operated by three large independent providers. And the increase in prices is also partly because companies would adjust prices to make up for the revenues lost in lower-paid transports that are covered by Medicare.

Air Medical Group Holdings to Offer Air Ambulance Services in India

Air Medical Group Holdings, the largest privately-held provider of air ambulance services in the world, has announced their plans to start their services in India. The provider has partnered with Aviators Air Rescue, an Indian charter operator, and will likely be starting their operations in the first quarter of 2018.

Lower Cost of Air Ambulance Services Promised

This new partnership between Aviators Air Rescue and Air Medical Group Holdings is seen as huge step in emergency healthcare in India. What’s even more significant is that Air Medical Group Holdings will be offering their services at rates much lower than that of what they charge in other parts of the world.

Highly-equipped Helicopter to Deliver Quality Service

The air ambulance helicopter for use by Air Medical Group Holdings will be properly equipped to carry out transportation and medical care efficiently. It will have an approved flight stretcher and specialized equipment and medication that will be necessary for in-flight pre-hospital care.

And a fully-trained medical team will accompany the patient to provide whatever care is possible during the transportation. This will play a huge role in saving lives of patients who are in need of emergency medical care but are located too far away from a hospital.

This step will enhance the quality of air ambulance services available in India. According to Phillip Devasia, director of financial planning and analysis at Med-Trans Corporation, which is a unit of AMGH, India is a country of 1.2 billion people and if this service can be used by even just 1% of the population, it will make a significant difference.

The introduction of AMGH air ambulance will also address the issue of badly-clogged roads that make ground ambulance transport more difficult. The air ambulance will be able to cut travel time by around 90%.

New Acquisition for AMR Air Ambulance Service

AMR Air Ambulance, which belongs to American Medical Response, has acquired Life Guard International, a Las Vegas-based fixed-wing air ambulance service. The air ambulance provider made their announcement early in July and this acquisition is meant to offer a flying ICU service to their patients. This will help them fulfill their commitment to patients in need and provide more reliable and timely transportation services.

Strong Reputation for Life Guard International

According to AMR Air Ambulance’s executive director of medical operations, John Paladino, they chose Life Guard international because they have built a strong reputation for providing safe and high-quality services among patients and clients as well as industry leaders.

Life Guard’s established air ambulance service will combine with AMR’s ground ambulance service to provide a comprehensive medical transport service to their patients. Their services will be available for residents in Last Vegas and Southern California as well as Arizona.

Impressive Fleet for Quality Air Ambulance Service

Life Guard International’s Flying ICU is being operated by almost 50 employees, which includes in-flight nurses and paramedics, perfusionists, and physicians. They carry out their operations through four contracted aircrafts, which includes three Beechcraft King Air turboprops and a Learjet 35A.

Flying ICU has a license to operate in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. They arrange for residents in the southwest to receive emergency fixed-wing medical services in cases where the distance is too long to be covered by an air ambulance helicopter.

Since the base is strategically located, AMR Air Ambulance will now be able to respond to calls more quickly and efficiently. They will no longer have to keep pulling resources from their other base. The partnership is likely to ensure that medical patients receive high-quality medical care and quick transport, increasing their likelihood to survive even in case of emergencies.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against REACH Air Medical Services for Overcharging

REACH Air Medical Services is facing a class action lawsuit filed by a Gallatin County family claiming they were overcharged for the provider’s services. REACH helped transport the family’s 6-year-old son, a brain tumor patient, to Denver. The family has claimed that the air ambulance company failed to tell them about the cost of the flight beforehand and now they’ve been overcharged.

Lawsuit Classified as Class Action

The plaintiffs are Stan and Rainy Wagner. They will be represented by Bozeman-based attorneys Margaret Weamer, Daniel Buckley, Matt Kelly, and Travis Kinzler. These attorneys have classified the lawsuit as a class action so they can also help other air ambulance patients to seek damages if they’ve been in a similar situation.

Air medical services in Montana are now facing close scrutiny after the new legislation that prevents air ambulance providers from overcharging their customers/patients. Representatives for REACH, however, have declined to comment on the filing as of now because they haven’t had a chance to review the case yet.

More than $100,000 Charged for Air Medical Services

According to the lawsuit, the Wagners’ 6-year-old son was diagnosed with brain tumor in 2015. The pediatricion recommended that the family immediately transport him for treatment at the Children’s Hospital in Denver.

While the Wagners agreed to use the services provided by REACH, they hadn’t been informed about the cost of the one-way flight in their contract. February of the next year, they received a bill of $109,590, comprising of a $15,965 base rate along with a charge of $175 per mile.

While their insurance company BlueCross BlueShield of Montana ended up paying $22,933 on their behalf, the family was still charged with $40,057 that reflected a lower per-mile rate than before. According to this new bill, the Wagners had to pay $81.96 per mile for the 535 miles flown.

Spirit Moves Base for Ground and Air Medical Transport Base

Ministry Spirit Medical Transportation Services has officially moved their base to Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Local officials and officials from Ascension Wisconsin, which is part of the Ministry Health Care parent company, participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday July 12. The new base for their ground and air medical transport operations is now located at the Stevens Point Municipal Airport.

New Base to Hold Facilities for Both Ground and Air Medical Transport Operations

The new base located at Stevens Point now houses the Spirit helicopter and flight crew members, making up their air ambulance operations. It also houses the service’s ground units, making room for inter-facility transports as well as paramedic intercept services.

Ministry had made an announcement earlier in April that their Spirit ground and air medical transport base will be shifted to Stevens Point from the original base in Marshfield. The relocations process itself was completed in June.

New Base to Result in Better Service

Dr. Stewart Watson, who presides over the north region of Ascension Wisconsin as a Chief Medical Officer stated that a majority of their patients were located around the Stevens Point area and the Interstate 39/U.S. 5 1 corridor. So relocating to Stevens Point will help them provide better service to their patients.

Although they have changed base, Spirit will still provide the same service to patients in other parts of the region. They will provide full transport services, which will be available for patients at Marshfield Clinic. They will also continue making NCIU transfers for the hospital.

Spirit has been in operation for close to 24 years. They have been providing critical care transport to patients located around central and northern Wisconsin. They currently operate from five ground bases using 12 ambulances and 2 helicopters.

Air Methods Partners with Rico Aviation to Provide Quality Air Ambulance Service

Air Methods has struck up a partnership with Rico Aviation to expand their critical care reach. The partnership has resulted in the adoption of a new Bell 407 helicopter to provide quality air ambulance service. With rotor wing capabilities, the new helicopter will help Rico Aviation in providing better service to residents in the Texas Panhandle as well as Eastern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.

Texas-based Air Ambulance Service to Create 15 New Jobs

The helicopter air ambulance is based at Dalhart in Texas. Rico Aviation provides the clinical staff including flight paramedics and flight nurses. The Air Methods emergency medical services provide staffing for pilots and mechanics. This base has created 15 new jobs.

The Bell 407 helicopter has been equipped with all the essential supplies to provide critical care just as they would in the intensive care unit of a hospital. This means the helicopter carries everything from oxygen and air resuscitation equipment to heart monitor/defibrillator and suction. It also carries the essentials like IV pump, fluids, ventilators, emergency medications, and specialized monitoring and testing equipment.

Largest Air Ambulance Provider has Catered to 2 Million Patients

Air Methods is currently the largest air ambulance provider in the United States. With almost 40 years of experience in the industry, they have provided valuable air ambulance service to more than 2 million patients. The provider’s reputation and core values are among the reasons why Rico Aviation wanted to partner with Air Methods.

The new helicopter is the fourth among the Rico Aviation fleet. Aside from it, they carry out their operations using two fixed wing air ambulance aircrafts and one charter jet. And they will continue to operate under the same Rico Aviation team that has carried out operations in Amarillo since the past 21 years.

Montana Insurance Company Reaches Network Agreement with Air Ambulance Service Provider

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana has reached a network agreement with Life Flight Network. This agreement will provide residents of southern Montana with critical air ambulance service. The insurance provider provides coverage to almost 300,000 Montana residents. They also have network contracts with several hospital-based air ambulance providers.

Agreement Resulting from New Legislation

This agreement between the two parties came about after the passing of a new legislation by the Montana Legislature. According to the bill, insurance provides will have to negotiate ambulance bill settlements with air ambulance providers. If necessary, they may even have to negotiate on a case-by-case basis. Patients will only be responsible for deductibles and copays.

The Montana State Legislature passed the bill after hearing the testimonies of several patients who had been hit with sky high air ambulance bills. These patients were charged tens of thousands of dollars for getting transported by air ambulance helicopters.

Lower Air Ambulance Service Fees for Patients

According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Chief Medical Officer Monica Berner, the new agreement will reduce the chances of their members getting hit with massive air ambulance bills. Before the passing of the bill, patients were stuck with sky high bills. While insurers claimed that air ambulance service providers were unwilling to make negotiations, air ambulance providers claimed that insurers were low-balling them.

And the state governments were helpless as the federal Airline Deregulation Act prevents them from regulating the prices, routes, and services of air ambulance providers. With the new legislation in Montana, other insurers and air ambulance providers are also negotiating network agreements. Pacific Source Health Plan, which previously had a network agreement with Life Flight, has made arrangements with REACH Air Medical Service in early June.