In an effort to ensure DeKalb County residents can afford to be flown to a trauma facility for treatment and not be burdened with emergency helicopter bills in the future, the county commission Monday night voted to contract with the AirMedCare Network to provide the service. But County Mayor Mike Foster told WJLE Wednesday that questions have since been raised and the contract won't be signed until more information is provided by AirMedCare.
If the deal goes through, the cost to the county is expected to be more than $71,000 this year. According to Foster, the original proposal by AirMedCare, as discussed in previous budget committee meetings, was too expensive and wasn't included in this year's budget. But after the proposed budget was finalized, the county reconsidered and decided to fund it with a budget amendment after AirMedCare revised its offer. During Monday night's meeting, the county commission adopted the agreement on a 10-2 vote. Those voting in favor were Mason Carter, Elmer Ellis, Jr., Jerry Scott, Bradley Hendrix, Jerry Adcock, Rick Cantrell, Jeff Barnes, Marshall Ferrell, Larry Summers, and Jimmy Poss. Wayne Cantrell and David McDowell voted against it.
The AirMedCare Network is an alliance among Air Evac Lifeteam, EagleMed, REACH Air Medical Services, and Med-Trans Air Medical Transport creating America's largest air ambulance membership network. An AirMedCare Network Membership automatically enrolls patients in all 4 membership programs, providing membership coverage in over 200 locations across 28 states.
According to AirMedCare, the average bill for a medical air flight is now $25,000. But under this program residents who live within DeKalb County and are air lifted by Erlanger Life Force or the Air Evac Life Team from any location in the county for emergency treatment, will not be billed for the flight as long as they are insured at the time of transport. Patients who are not insured will be billed the "Medicare Allowable Rate". The deal does not apply to patients served by Vanderbilt Life Flight or any other service not in the AirMedCare Network.
Coverage is limited to accidents or medical events inside the county unless residents sign up and pay the $35 upgrade membership fee that covers them and their entire household within AirMedCare's network.
Without the county's participation, patients can get the same coverage from AirMedCare by paying an annual $65.00 household membership fee.
According to County Mayor Foster, the numbers show that the AirMedCare Network (Lifeforce or Air Evac) completed a total of 224 medical flights from DeKalb County between July 1, 2013 to July 28, 2014. Vanderbilt Life Flight completed a total of 71 flights from DeKalb County between January, 2013 to July 28, 2014.
AirMedCare apparently proposes to send the following letter to DeKalb County residents if the contract is signed by the county:
"Great news! Your County Commission has partnered with Erlanger Lifeforce to provide you with a tremendous opportunity. As a DeKalb County resident, you are now covered by a limited AirMedCare Network membership. While you are in DeKalb County, and are insured at time of flight, you will have no out of pocket expense. If you are uninsured at the flight, you will have a reduced bill at the Medicare Allowable Rate."
"In addition to this limited membership, you now have the ability to upgrade to full membership benefits with coverage in the entire AirMedCare Network service area. DeKalb County residents are eligible to upgrade your Entire household for only $35 per year."
"As your local air ambulance, serving area residents from our surrounding bases, Erlanger Lifeforce understands the critical aspect of time in treating medical emergencies. For those of us living in rural America, recovery from illness or injury can depend on how much time it takes to be transported to definitive emergency medical treatment. Erlanger Lifeforce can cut that transportation time in half."
"Even with medical insurance, an air medical transport can leave you with unexpected out-of-pocket expenses, burdening you and your family's finances. Upgrading to a full AMCN membership will alleviate this burden. As an AMCN member, if you or family household members are flown by any AMCN provider throughout our 28 state coverage area for a life or limb threatening emergency, you will receive no out-of-pocket expenses. We will work with your benefits provider to secure payment for your flight and what insurance pays will be considered payment-in-full. If you do not have air medical insurance, as a full member of AMCN you will still not be billed."
"Erlanger Lifeforce is part of the AirMedCare Network, the largest United States Air Ambulance Membership Network. A full AMCN membership automatically enrolls you in all provider membership programs, (Air Evac Lifeteam, Med-Trans Air Medical Transport, EagleMed, and REACH Air Medical Services) giving you membership coverage in over 220 locations across 28 states. All AMCN service providers work cooperatively to provide the highest levels of care for you, your family, and your community."
"Upgrade today and you can receive a full membership in the AirMedCare Network at an even lower price compared to the standard individual membership programs, giving you membership across four leading air ambulances operators for the price of one," the letter concludes.