EMS Provider Working to Keep Costs Down for Patients

By Jeremy Coumbes on November 5, 2019 at 8:46am

An emergency services provider in West Central Illinois is working to keep costs down for air ambulance flights.

Air Evac EMS Inc. services West Central Illinois with emergency life flight helicopter ambulance service via twelve different bases, including Jacksonville, Carrollton and Quincy.

Air ambulance flights most commonly transport patients with traumatic injuries, pregnancy complications, heart attacks, strokes and respiratory diseases. The Association of Air Medical Services estimates that more than 550,000 patients in the U.S. use air ambulances each year. However, using air ambulances is expensive and might not be covered by the patient’s health insurance policy.

Vice President of Base Operations for Air Evac EMS Inc., Joe Grygiel (Griggle) says that operations costs combined with limited revenue streams can make the process of capping costs to patients difficult.

We have high fixed costs, we are about 85% fixed costs. The cost of being available 24/7 365 days a year is high. We have no other source of revenue other than our patient flights.

I think what we are talking about now is the surprise billing legislation, which is why we are heavily involved in it. We certainly do not want the patients in the middle of it, and so it is why we are really working right now to minimize the amount the patient gets billed.”

Air Evac currently offers a subscription service known as Air Med Care Network to help patients save costs, should they need air flight ambulance service. The subscription costs $65.00 a year and covers anyone living in the subscriber’s household. The program bills a patient’s insurance company, and if there are co-pays associated with the patient’s coverage, the patient would not be charged those co-pays, which could run in the thousands of dollars.

Grygiel says that Air Evac EMS Inc. is following the progress of two proposed bills currently working their way through Congress, that would affect air ambulance flight costs.

There’s a bill in the Senate Health Committee, that I think people have probably heard of, and it is the Lower Healthcare Cost Act. Really, we are not in favor of that one. We believe it does not give the insurance companies any incentive to negotiate rates with us, and we are trying to do, is negotiate a fair and equitable rate with the insurance company, and if they do not negotiate with us, and we don’t have a rate with them, then we are considered out of network.

There is another bill that is in the House, it’s House Bill 3630, and is the No Surprise Act. This is a bill that we are supporting and what this does is, it says, let’s everyone be transparent, we want to share our costs with Health and Human Services.

On the other side, we want the insurance company to do the same thing and say, let’s show you what if physically costs us to do a flight, and we want to see what you as the insurance company is making on your end, and let Health and Human Services set an established, fair market value rate for air ambulances.”

According to The Association of Air Medical Services and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, The average air ambulance trip is 52 miles and costs between $12,000 to $25,000 per flight.

The high price accounts for the initial aircraft cost which can reach $6 million, as well as medical equipment, maintenance and the cost of 24 hour availability of medical personnel and pilots to take flight at a moment’s notice.