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Flight For Life Customer Follow Up on ABC News Story

On Wednesday, March 16, 2016, ABC News ran a story on the cost of air medical transport focusing specifically on the Air Methods Corporation (AMC) who operates community-based, for profit air medical bases throughout the U.S. They also provide aviation services for hospital-based and non-profit programs like Flight For Life (FFL). We contract our pilots and mechanics from AMC and have for a number of years.

After the story ran we felt that it was important to reach out to our customers to share information on this subject from the perspective of Flight For Life and how we operate. It’s important to FFL that we make sure our customers understand the full spectrum of the challenges faced by air medical providers, as well as the critical need for our services, and that this information is accurately conveyed to you and your staff as well as the public.

  •  Flight For Life, unlike the programs featured in recent news stories, is a non-profit organization with a vastly different business model than for-profit programs.


  • FFL focuses our efforts on working with those patients who may need assistance paying their bill. We work hard to establish open lines of communication related to any billing concerns including ability to pay. We work with patients to identify “least burdensome” ways to pay their bill. This can include establishing payment plans, bill adjustments, and/or offering charity care to those who do not have the means to pay for the service provided.


  • Everyone deserves access to lifesaving care. FFL provides the service regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.


  • Nationally more than 82 million Americans can only reach a Level I or II trauma center within the golden hour if flown by helicopter.


  • The patients we transport suffer from serious injuries or life-threatening illness.  Our advance skilled medical teams are comprised of a flight nurse and flight paramedic. They provide the care and interventions needed during flight, reducing the patients “out of hospital time.” This is considered the most dangerous time for these patients. We are essentially a flying ICU/emergency room.


  • These transports are emergent in nature and we only respond when we are requested by a fire department, EMS or first responder. 70-80% of flights are inter-hospital and we are requested by a physician to transport the patient.


  • Real-time deployment readiness requires enormous financial resources and ongoing investment. There is a very real cost that goes into providing access 24/7/365  even though a very small percentage of the population will ever require our services.


  • 80% of the Flight For Life’s program costs are fixed.


  • We, like all providers of health care, are challenged by rising costs, and decreasing and often inadequate reimbursement. Increasingly, private insurers are not covering air ambulance transports in a way that protects their beneficiaries, offering payments that are well below a fair and reasonable rate for our services.


  • In 5 out of 10 transports we are compensated significantly below the cost of providing the service. This is the result of poor government reimbursement in MEDICARE and MEDICAID programs. FFL accepts assignment on all MEDICARE and MEDICAID patients, meaning that we take what they pay us. Because we accept assignment, we do not balance bill the patient for the remainder of the transport cost that is not reimbursed.


  • Insurance companies do not typically enter into contracts with air medical providers. The reason for this is that the number of patients, 1/2-1.0% of all EMS transports, go by air. This creates a situation where there is no incentive for the insurance companies to seek contracts and organizations like FFL are left with no negotiating opportunity.


  • Flight For Life has an excellent safety record with over 34,800 patient flights. Over the past 32 years we’ve continued to make ongoing  financial commitments in safety, such as purchasing only twin engine helicopters (which cost more, but are considered safer than single engine aircraft), as well as having our own dedicated backup aircraft. The aircraft are night vision goggle equipped and have IFR capabilities. We have made the investment to carry O negative blood on every flight and invested in state of the art medical equipment such as IABP, IV pumps, and ventilators.


If you have any further questions please contact either:

  • Jayce Commo at jcommo@mrmcffl.org or 920-251-9387 or
  • Tammy Chatman at tchatman@mrmcffl.org or 414-791-6655

FFL - 03/30/2016