The recent news of Air Methods' air medical base closures in Kentucky is unfortunate, but not surprising. Earlier this year, PHI, another air medical company, announced it was filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to reorganize and solve its debts due partly to "a significant decrease in revenue from air medical." These events underscore a growing threat to emergency air medical care due to an unsustainable government reimbursement system.
Maintaining air medical bases with ICUs ready to deploy 24/7, 365 days a year is expensive, especially with increased demand in services due to rural hospital closures. However, over 70% of patients who use these services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or have no insurance at all. Reimbursement rates for these programs only cover a small amount of provider costs. To make matters worse, some private insurers refuse to go in-network with air medical providers, placing them under increased financial strain.
To ensure Americans continue to have access to life-saving air medical services, the solution is two-fold: Congress must update Medicare reimbursement rates to reflect the actual cost of care and private insurers must go in-network with air medical providers. Access to emergency care and American lives are at stake.