Nov. 18—Air Methods, an air medical service, has announced that it has launched nationwide the “No Membership Required” initiative to allow patients to focus on recovery and not have to navigate the insurance and billing process alone. With this initiative, and based on the success of Air Methods’ Patient Advocacy program, its in-network growth strategy, and a Community Partnership Program, Air Methods discontinued selling its Air Methods Advantage membership program in April 2019.
Air Methods announced that it is refunding any membership fees paid by Medicare beneficiaries who were members when the program ended in April.
Medicare Part B beneficiaries are already covered for air medical services without a membership. Air Methods and its Patient Advocacy team works with beneficiaries to make sure their co-pays and deductibles are affordable. In 2018, the average out-of-pocket cost for Medicare patients transported by Air Methods was $280, including co-pays and deductibles. Air Methods will refund any membership fees paid by those members who were of Medicare age when the program ended in April 2019. The company will mail checks to those members within the next 60 days.
Because all Medicare Part B beneficiaries are covered for air medical services regardless of the company that transports them, Air Methods is challenging other companies in the industry to do the same and refund membership payments made by Medicare beneficiaries.
Air medical services are provided in life-threatening situations where time is of the essence, and asking patients to remember which company they have a membership with to avoid a balance bill adds an unnecessary layer of stress to an already intense situation.
Air Methods’ mission is to deliver safe and reliable critical care in the air 24/7/365, treat every patient with care, and help them navigate the often confusing insurance process. Air Methods will honor all existing memberships, but once a patient’s membership expires, it will not be renewed.
Memberships were created and sold in the past on the premise that it would help patients avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses related to the potential of needing air medical services. Today, Air Methods is taking a new approach to achieve this same goal: it is going in-network with a growing number of insurance providers to avoid balance bills. In-network coverage offers consumers a discounted, out-of-pocket payment for qualified services, which varies depending on their plan’s benefits. Staying in-network for healthcare services can help consumers avoid unexpected spending as well as balance billing, which is the practice of billing a patient for the difference between the plan’s reimbursement and the medical charges.
Air Methods now has 47 in-network agreements across the United States. Today, approximately 75 percent of Air Methods’ patients are covered for its services either through commercial insurance or through Medicare Part B or Medicaid, so patients will not receive a balance bill for services. Patients of these private insurance plans do not require a membership, and will only be responsible for their co-payments and deductibles, if applicable by their plan.
Air Methods will work with all patients to ensure a financially feasible outcome is reached so that no patient has to worry about their bill while recovering from an emergency.
“Air Methods understands how complicated and nuanced the healthcare system can be and how stressful balance billing situations are for patients and families when they need to focus on recovery,” said Steve Gorman, Air Methods’ CEO. “For that reason, we are committed to further helping patients by no longer requiring memberships. By focusing instead on in-network agreements with any and all health insurance carriers who will partner with us, we are dedicated to reducing the burden of balance billing on the patients who need our life-saving services. With 85 million Americans living more than an hour from the nearest Level-1 or Level-2 trauma center if driven by ambulance, we are committed to taking every step possible to ensure their access to that care.”
Air Methods has a dedicated Patient Advocacy department, which provides patients with support and resources during the post-flight insurance billing process.
With a dedicated team of patient advocates on staff, Air Methods’ goal is to alleviate any stress on patients and their families, so that patients’ recovery is the focus. Patient advocates work with patients to help navigate the health insurance maze. Whether Air Methods is in-network or out-of-network with a patient’s health plan, patient advocates help with insurance claims, including navigating the appeals process if the insurance company initially denies or underpays the claim. When a patient works with the Patient Advocacy team, they normally only pay their deductible or co-insurance. On average, for all patients, regardless of payer, the out-of-pocket costs for Air Methods’ services is only a couple hundred dollars.
Air Methods actively partners with local government entities to ensure that local residents have access to life-saving air medical services without the worry of high out-of-pocket expenses. Through community partnerships, Air Methods works with local governments and assists with reviewing insurance claims received by county residents to ensure that they are aware of its Patient Advocacy services and financial assistance programs.
Air Methods encourages local governments to save the money they would otherwise spend on upfront nonrefundable membership fees, and instead create a charitable fund for patients to assist with out-of-pocket medical expenses, allowing for any remaining dollars in that fund to roll over to the next year or be spent on other priorities as the locality sees fit.