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Air Ambulance Services Covered by Medicare, Available Across Wyoming

A Wyoming law passed in 2019 requires all air-ambulance insurance or membership companies to be certified with the state, to ensure that companies are legitimate and have enough money to pay claims.(Adamwaa/Wikimedia Commons)
A Wyoming law passed in 2019 requires all air-ambulance insurance or membership companies to be certified with the state, to ensure that companies are legitimate and have enough money to pay claims.(Adamwaa/Wikimedia Commons)
June 18, 2020

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Wyoming officials have received a lot of phone calls from consumers across the state who are confused about the availability and potential out-of-pocket costs of emergency air ambulance service.

Denise Burke, senior policy and planning analyst for the Wyoming Department of Insurance, says while emergency airlift is covered under Medicare and Medicaid, it's important for people to review their current coverage, especially if they purchased private membership plans.

Burke says the cost of air transport, which can't be regulated by the state, has gone up by as much as 1,700% over the past six to eight years.

"Consumers are concerned, and they should be," she states. "It really all comes down to consumers being well aware of what they have, and if they feel they need additional coverage, knowing that they have a product that will protect them."

A state law, passed in 2019, requires all air ambulance insurance or membership companies to be certified with the state.

Burke says the certification ensures that companies are legitimate and have enough money to pay claims. The law went into effect in April.

Some firms criticize the new requirements, claiming that membership is not insurance but prepaid discounted services.

Burke points out that under most membership plans, the discount only applies to aircraft operated by the membership company.

Most emergency airlifts tap the first available aircraft, which may or may not be covered by membership.

Burke says despite what some may have seen in mailers or on social media, medical transport services in Wyoming are up and running.

"If a person needed to be transported today, the aircraft are absolutely still flying, the transport is still there," she stresses. "And chances are if the person is Medicare eligible, they already had coverage to begin with."

As Medicare and supplemental plans cover most of the cost of air ambulance rides, AARP Wyoming is working with the Department of Insurance, and the Legislature, to advance other protections, including disclosures encouraging Wyoming's Medicare-eligible population to check existing policies before purchasing membership plans.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY