RVer Safety: “Fly me away” – The high cost of air transport in an emergency

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By Mike Sherman
Your safety is always important, and we strive to present useful information that helps you maintain a level of safety so you can relax and enjoy your travel and camping experience.

One aspect to keep in mind is the preventive measures you can take to avoid a huge financial hit in the event you suffer a medical emergency. I am referring to helicopters. I watched them save lives in Vietnam, and I witnessed my seriously injured son being airlifted from our local hospital to a large city facility that was better equipped to treat his life-threatening injuries. One aspect of air ambulances that you may not be aware of is the tremendous cost involved.


A 45-minute flight can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 and higher, based on the medical care needed during the flight. I know friends that needed the services of a medical helicopter who received a bill that sent them into shock. Depending on what type of insurance coverage you might have, there might be assistance available but seldom for the entire amount.

Here is a sample story that drives the point home (source: www.azcentral.com 6/25/18):

Ezra Brunner had a sore throat on Christmas Day. It became a cough by dinner. Then, after he had gone to sleep, Ezra began struggling to breathe. His parents called 911, and a ground ambulance rushed the 4-year-old to the closest hospital from their Camp Verde home.

Verde Valley Medical Center staff diagnosed Ezra with croup, a serious respiratory infection, and treated him with medicine. But the little boy’s condition was critical, and the hospital didn’t have a pediatric unit.

Doctors recommended he be airlifted to the hospital in Flagstaff. “I heard ‘helicopter’ and thought, ‘That’s probably not cheap,'” Ezra’s father, Dave Brunner, said. But the child’s life was in the balance, so the family couldn’t wait. Brunner had no idea how right he would be.

The bill for the 15-minute emergency flight totaled $47,000. When the family’s insurer agreed to pay a fraction of the cost, $5,000, the air-ambulance company came after the Brunners for the rest, billing records show.

Scary stuff, huh? As we RV, we can end up in remote areas and it is almost common practice to use a helicopter for medical transportation in remote areas depending on the urgency of your condition. You probably will not have the option to have a discussion with a 911 operator on the pros and cons of dispatching a helicopter. In other words, you will probably not be involved in the decision and having a choice will probably not be possible.

Therefore, I recommend you look into an independent insurance policy that specifically covers any air ambulance call. I recall receiving an advertisement for a policy that seemed quite reasonable. Did I subscribe? Nope, because I’m getting old, and I made a discovery regarding Medicare. From Medicare Interactive.org:

In limited cases, Medicare Part B covers transportation in an air ambulance. The service must be medically necessary, meaning that you require immediate and rapid ambulance transportation that could not be provided by a ground ambulance. More specifically, the service must be needed either because:

A ground ambulance cannot get to you where you are,

Or, there is a great distance to travel or another obstacle involved in getting you to the nearest appropriate facility.

In rural areas, you automatically meet the medical necessity requirement if:

A doctor or other medical professional determines that air transport is necessary due to time and/or geographical factors,

And, the air transport meets Medicare-approved air ambulance requirements.

So, there are some advantages to getting old after all! But do some research before you need it, just in case.

Be alert, be aware, be safe, and have some fun!

Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.

RVer Safety: "Fly me away" – The high cost of air transport in an emergencyMike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions, or leave a comment below. 

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Roy

my wife was transported from Kewanee,IL. to Peoria,IL. a 20 minute flight cost was over $28,000.

David Hagen

Mike, In an article such as this you should have at least mentioned the options for helicopter service. There are regional, national, and worldwide companies. Such as Lifeflight, MASA, and Skymed.

Vanessa Simmons

FMCA offers airlift service to their members at no extra cost. Doesn’t matter if traveling by RV or by ship or car. I’ve read several stories on their site or in the magazine about their roadside rescue.

Tim H Lecluse

Hey what the hell are you doing mike! The rv shrink post a article about on road attempt to stop a rv by throwingpaint on the windshield and your NOT !! Aware. How about some advice what to do!

Moe Boat

Another good one that pays for whatever helicopter the 911 dispatcher sends is SkyMed. They protect you whether you are at home or away from home.

Steve

I used to live in the remote area of Terlingua, Texas, in the Big Bend. Lived 4 miles off the pavement and required 4-wheel drive in foul weather. I’ve had air transport insurance for about 10-years now; a no-brainer for where we lived. I now live on the sun coast of west Florida and will keep my air transport insurance because of continuing to travel by RV and sailing; never know where I’ll anchor, boat or RV. Cost for this is minimal as well, $65.00 for a single person per year; can’t be beat. Also, the company continues to grow adding more services into there fold. Company is: AirMedCare Network, https://www.airmedcarenetwork.com/ P.S. Never had to use it and hope I never will, but just in case I’m covered for that very, very expensive flight!

Booneyrat

I highly recommend MASA…the up front cost may seem high,but if you need a chopper flight…they will be a bargain compared to being ripped off by the air carrier.