Ala. air ambulance base closes due to high costs
Employees have been offered other jobs or a severance package; low demand and the state's decision not to expand Medicaid put a strain on operations
By Marty Roney
WETUMPKA, Ala. — Air Evac Lifeteam has made the decision to close its Elmore County air ambulance base in Wetumpka, effective today, according to Julie Hearvin, spokeswoman for the company
Company President Seth Myers said low utilization of the service coupled with low reimbursement rates were major factors in the company’s decision to cease operations at the base which has been in service since April 2006.
“The reimbursement issue, along with a low demand for patient transports, made it impossible for us to sustain operations at the base,” Myers said. “As a result of the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid, nearly a quarter of the residents we fly in Alabama are self-pay with very little means to pay medical expenses. For those patients covered by Medicaid, they currently reimburse just over $500 for the transport of an adult. The high fixed cost of air ambulance makes it impossible for us to continue to operate with no indication of improvement in sight.”
“We’ve been taking a loss with this base for many years. This is an area where air medical services are needed and we wanted to provide this valuable resource for the people in this region,” Myers added. “We’ve also seen a decline in commercial reimbursement rates, making Alabama the lowest state in our 15-state service area for reimbursement.”
“While we regret have to close any base we have in operation, if we are not able to cover the costs to operate the base, we must utilize our resources in other areas that have greater needs for utilization,” he said.
Air Evac Lifeteam operates two other bases in the region at Demopolis and LaGrange, Ga. Both bases are an approximately 80-mile flight from Elmore County.
Myers said he met with crewmembers that have been working at the base this morning to talk with them about the decision to close the base. All have been offered the opportunity to work in other positions in the company or accept a severance package.
Air Evac Lifeteam members living in Autauga, Bullock, Butler, Chilton, Crenshaw, Elmore, Montgomery, Pike and Tallapoosa counties will receive a letter this week providing them with details and options regarding their membership, including an option for a prorated refund.
|McClatchy-Tribune News Service|