Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Elko County, Nevada: Medical transport services explained

At a recent meeting of the Medicare in Elko Workgroup, a discussion was held concerning the three air medical services available to Elko County residents. The medical transport industry is in a constant state of flux, with some pending changes in parent companies. This discussion covered the state of the industry at this moment.

Steve Burrows is Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital’s director of marketing. He told the group Elko AirOne is owned by parent company Medx AirOne, which is partnering with NNRH. AirOne keeps a helicopter at the hospital helicopter pad. When transport is needed, the patient’s insurance is billed for the cost of transport, but there is always part of the bill not covered by insurance. With AirOne, any permanent resident of Elko County will not pay any out of pocket costs. This is due to generous donations to Northern Nevada EMS Consortium, a nonprofit organization. People can purchase membership in AirOne for $40 per family per year, if they are not permanent residents in Elko County, or if they often travel to areas covered by Medx.

The restriction is AirOne will only fly a patient from NNRH’s helicopter pad to another hospital’s helicopter pad, such as University of Utah or Renown Health in Reno. If AirOne’s helicopter is already in use, a patient will need to use one of the other local air medical services. Patients can also request another air medical service and the AirOne helicopter can quickly move out of the way for the other service’s helicopter to land.

John Burruel is the program director for AMRG/American Medflight. American Medflight Air Ambulance operates a fixed-wing aircraft out of the Elko Airport, transporting patients between airports. They participate in the same program as AirOne, so any permanent resident of Elko County will not pay any out of pocket costs. They also offer a membership for $45 per family per year. A membership gives people air transport in other areas where AMRG operates.

Chris Baird is program manager for Reach Air Medical Service (formerly Summit Air). They operate a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft out of the Elko Airport and can bring in other aircraft to Elko when needed. They are part of the AirMedCare Network with 240 bases in 32 states. Their helicopter is the only service that picks up patients anywhere in the area for transport to a hospital. The fixed-wing transports patients between airports.

Membership is $65 per year per person and covers a person anywhere AirMedCare operates. Membership means the patient’s insurance is billed but no out of pocket costs are incurred. Non-members would pay what their insurance does not cover, perhaps 20 percent of the bill. Transportation costs are per call and per mile, depending on type of aircraft and pickup spot. As an example of cost, a flight by fixed-wing to Salt Lake City might be in the range of $8,000, so a non-member might pay $1,600 to cover what their insurance does not pay.

Ground service

Ground ambulance transport is generally not covered in these air medical transports. Lee Cabaniss is director of the Elko County Ambulance Service. He said the ambulance service does not receive tax dollars and does not offer a membership. Their patients pay for whatever is not covered by their insurance. The cost is per call, based on the type of service needed, plus a price per mile. Most of their patient runs are fairly short. An emergency call carrying a patient 60 miles might cost about $3,000, so patients might pay $600, depending on their insurance plan. The cost goes up with the type of service required during the run.

What is billed is based solely on what level of service is provided and the mileage fees. The patient’s out of pocket costs depends on what the patient’s insurance (including Medicare or Medicaid) pays for medically necessary transports and the rules attached to those payments. The ambulance service will set up a payment plan and has a program to assist with a financial hardship. Ambulance units are stationed in Elko, Wells and Jackpot. They also do non-emergency transfers of patients at a lower cost.

Medicaid users will always be transported as needed. They cannot be charged out-of-pocket costs or a membership fee, and the AirOne and Medflight programs would be no problem for Medicaid users.

Everyone faces the possibility of someday needing air medical transport, so they need to keep up on the different programs. To ensure they will always have a lower cost transport, Elko County residents could purchase a membership in Reach, to supplement the services available from AirOne and American Medflight. The service a person wants to use may not be available when they need transport. Even then, Northern Nevada’s variable weather can keep aircraft on the ground.

Burrows said, “In Elko County we are fortunate to have three excellent companies that provide emergency air transport. Since we live in a remote location, this is a vital service. Thanks to Elko AirOne, REACH, and American Medflight, our community is well covered. I can’t foresee there ever being a situation where a patient needed an aircraft and none was available.”

Original article can be found here:  http://elkodaily.com

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