Emergency Helicopter Airlifts-What Happens If it's POLITICIZED???? Membership Selling in Somervell CountySomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


Emergency Helicopter Airlifts-What Happens If it's POLITICIZED???? Membership Selling in Somervell County

23 December 2007 at 8:58:33 AM

You\'re in a car accident on Hwy 67 and the EMS personnel call emergency services, including a helicopter to a hospital, to get you to emergency care quickly. You, thinking you are prudent to do so, bought a *membership* from one helicopter service, in case you would ever need such fast air flights to the hospital.  Why? Because the membership would prevent you from being billed for the ride beyond the cost of insurance (to me, it sounds like insurance layered on insurance). The EMS personnel, however, use whatever one is closest and that just might not be YOUR air flight provider.

Now let\'s add to the mix when the companies that provide services like this, such as Air Evac or Careflite, have to get permission from the local Texas county in which they want to sell memberships. The reason this is, is because of a Texas state law from some years back that requires any EMS provider to get permission from the chief elected official of the county in which they want to sell the memberships. In Somervell County, of course, that would be Judge Walter Maynard.  From an article in today\'s Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

In Somervell County, the provider that has the contract, which was decided in July, 2007, is AirEvac. This didn\'t set well with CareFlite, which is out of Arlington. Maynard was flown up to Missouri to look at the AirEvac helicopters and then, when it came down for time for the vote, Careflite believed it hadn\'t had a chance to offer its case and compete.

I agree with Mike Ford, who is my precinct commissioner, who said in the article

"It\'s a mess, and I\'m not sure at all it\'s good for the citizen"

UPDATE 10/29/2010-It may have been a mess, but Mike Ford is the one that made the motion to approve them selling here.

One more on Mike Ford and Air Evac. I went and looked up the agenda and minutes for July 9, 2007 Somervell County Commisssioners Court. Item 15 was "Discuss/take action on requests from AirEvac Life Team and/or Careflite to sell memberships in Somervell County. From Minutes: Motion was made by Commissioner Ford and seconded by Commissioner Cummings to approve allowing only AirEvac Life Team (Lifestar) to market memberships in Somervell County. Motion carried. All voting aye.

That\'s because, for one reason, again, if you had a membership with one airflight company but another actually did the transporting, you\'d be BILLED for the cost above insurance. I don\'t know that there are any private EMS companies in Somervell County; I do know that the Somervell Fire Department has trained EMS personnel so one would assume that, since they\'re a county fire department, they would also use the AirEvac-but maybe not- are 911 personnel REQUIRED to use the service that has permission to sell memberships?. It appears to me that the memberships apply in any of the states in which the provider has service, but selling the memberships to people is the sticking point where, at least in Texas, you have to get permission to do it.

(You\'d be, incidentally, kind of out of luck if you were travelling, had a health emergency and were flighted out by another company you didn\'t have a membership with-same goes if that happened iN THE NEXT COUNTY. Johnson and Hood County don\'t use Air Evac, they use Careflite (Erath County doesn\'t have a recommendation).  This from a section in which the subtitle is about these companies wooing (can we say lobbying?) county officials.

Somervell County 

1 Air Evac Lifeteam, which has a helicopter based in Glen Rose, received the commissioners\' approval to sell memberships in July. CareFlite was also considered at the meeting and denied the ability to sell. County Judge Walter Maynard was part of a contingent from the county that visited Air Evac\'s headquarters in West Plains, Mo., at the company\'s expense a few months after the Glen Rose base was opened in 2006.

Hood County

2 CareFlite, which has a helicopter in Granbury, received permission from commissioners to sell memberships last December. Air Evac Lifeteam has yet to seek a vote on its program. CareFlite gave County Judge Andy Rash a price break associated with membership -- worth several thousand dollars -- when he suffered a heart attack in April and was flown to Fort Worth, even though he was not a member at the time.

Johnson County

3 CareFlite, the county\'s ground ambulance provider since 2003, was approved by commissioners to sell memberships last December. County Judge Roger Harmon refused a request to put Air Evac Lifeteam on the commissioners\' agenda for a similar vote in September.

Erath County

4 No service has been approved to sell memberships in the county because of County Judge Tab Thompson\'s opposition to the concept. Thompson was part of another group that visited the Air Evac Lifeteam headquarters in Missouri at the company\'s expense.

One more thing about AirEvac. The FBI SEIZED ITS FILES in May of 2007. That was not only before their service was approved here in Somervell County but it\'s sticking in Careflite\'s craw.

Justice Department investigators have seized records from the headquarters of a large operator of medical helicopters as part of an investigation, apparently into possible health care fraud. 


But a front-page article in The New York Times in 2005 described how Air Evac Lifeteam was apparently sending out helicopters -- and charging insurers -- in instances that did not appear to be emergencies. The article also described how Air Evac Lifeteam sent so-called "blitz teams" to small towns where commission-based sales representatives sold memberships door-to-door, outside stores like Wal-Mart and at meetings of groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars. 

I looked up the original article, here.

On a recent windy morning, Cliff Rost, the volunteer fire chief in Morrison, Mo., found himself walking an older man bothered by shoulder pain a quarter of a mile down a road to reach a helicopter run by a company called Air Evac Lifeteam. The man had bought a company "membership" that allowed participants to call for an emergency airlift without any out-of-pocket cost. 

In recent years, Mr. Rost said, Air Evac has made about a dozen flights into the area, about 75 miles west of St. Louis. He said he felt that only one had involved a serious emergency.

"They had people running around saying, \'You don\'t need to call 911, just call Air Evac,\' and that\'s what\'s been happening," he said.


The article also points out some other things I didn\'t realize. I had thought that the care type helicopters were run by hospitals, but no, they\'re more like privately run air taxis in the sky, without rigorous oversight, like "buzzards in the sky".  A spokesman for the National Flight Paramedics Team says that the AirEvac people are probably the #1 opponent to regulation in the country. In fact, the FW Star-Telegram article referenced above says that Careflite actually tried to get the whole *membership* thing changed so that it would be more like just insurance, but failed to get it passed in the Lege. (THAT would be an interesting session to call up).

Sure seems like it\'s a good thing.. for the flight companies, but not for the people paying memberships. And it seems a little, um, coercive and sort of LEADS to lobbying efforts for a company to have to get permission from the highest county official to sell these things.

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