Study identifies air medical transport Medicare funding shortfalls

Over one-third of providers reported negative margins in 2015 for air medical services

By EMS1 Staff

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A new study has found that current Medicare reimbursement rates do not cover the cost of air medical transports.

The report, prepared for the Association of Air Medical Services, notes the median cost of Medicare air transport was $10,199 in 2015.

However, Medicare payment rates covered only 59 percent of reported costs for transports, with over one-third of providers reporting negative margins for air medical services. Rick Sherlock, AAMS president and CEO, said the study was long overdue.

"It has been AAMS's position for some time that Medicare payments do not adequately match costs," Sherlock said.

According to the study, the shortfall in payments also has a knock-on effect for private payers.

"Inadequate payment from public payers and the uncompensated care costs providers incur while treating uninsured patients have a trickle-down economic effect and play an important role in rates for air medical services for private payers and patients," the report stated.

Roughly 50 percent of all air medical bases in the country took part in the study, which captured 46 percent of air medical services  billed to Medicare.

The study also found that due to industry expansion, the percentage of the population within a 15- to 20 minute response area has grown from 71.2 percent in 2003 to 86.4 percent in 2016.

Read the full report below.

Air Medical Services Cost Study Report

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