Does Health Insurance Cover My Air Ambulance Flight?

Posted on Thu, Mar 01, 2018

The benefits and coverage of insurance for medical flight services remains one of the most frequently asked questions of providers. Insurance often can seem complicated, full of rules and regulations that may not always feel like they put the interests of the insured first. When it comes time to schedule air ambulance services, knowing whether your insurance will cover your flight (and what may actually be covered) is crucial.

You do have the right to choose a private provider over scheduling services provided by the hospital, and many insurance plans cover medically necessary emergency transport. Others also cover non-emergency travel for necessary medical purposes. Figuring out what your insurance will cover is the first step towards understanding the costs and benefits associated with medical flight services.

Insurance Rules for Medical Flight Services in the United States

Perhaps the most important rule regarding air ambulance care in the United States is that the travel must be deemed medically necessary by a doctor or other licensed care provider. This eliminates the insurance company’s need to cover vacation or personal travel for nonmedical purposes.

Doctors often need to clear medical flight services with the insurance provider prior to scheduling transport. They may also be required to confirm that ground services are not an option for medical reasons. This determination may later be reviewed by some insurance companies or even require separate specialist approval prior to liftoff.

In-Network Versus Out-of-Network Air Ambulance Services

Once a doctor has decided on the need for emergency care, it falls to you and your provider to determine if that care is considered “in network” for transport services. Many insurance plans cover in-network and out-of-network providers at different rates, ranging from as much as 100 percent to as little as 15 percent or no coverage at all.

Asking your healthcare provider to confirm network status at the time of approval is a great way to get the most of your benefits. The company you choose to schedule with can often provide this information as part of a comprehensive quote prior to locking in your travel plans.

What Costs Are Covered by Medical Insurance?

Medical insurance may cover many different portions of the cost of an air ambulance. Transport often includes a liftoff charge, which is likely covered at one percentage, and a per-mile fee for travel, which may have a different copay or coinsurance rate. For in-network providers, coinsurance typically ranges from 25 to 75 percent of the costs of these travel provisions.

This means you’ll pay only a part of the total cost with your insurance provider picking up the rest.  All ground transport to the aircraft and other arrangements are covered at the standard rates per the insurance policy. Out-of-network coverage may result in coinsurance payments of 50 to 100 percent, based on the provisions of the insurance plan.

Costs for International Air Ambulance Services

International air ambulance services are particularly tricky to negotiate when it comes to insurance. Many domestic-only services, like Medicare and Medicaid, will not assist with services outside of the United States. Private insurance providers may provide this type of coverage at a premium, but the most common form of international medical flight coverage comes with travel insurance.

The United States Department of State maintains a list of insurance providers for overseas coverage. If your credit card includes international travel insurance, or if you’ve purchased it from a private provider, check to see exactly what is covered. Often these coverages include a set total removed from the cost of liftoff, transport and any associated fees instead of a copay or coinsurance.

Getting a Quote for Air Ambulance Travel

The best way to get an estimate of your total air ambulance travel costs is to request a quote from a trusted provider, like AMR Air Ambulance. These quotes take into account your available insurance coverages as well as any additional factors, such as distances and border crossing fees, to give you an idea of what you may spend for top-notch care and transport. Medical emergencies and transport for surgeries are very stressful events, but scheduling your medical travel should provide a bit of relief and peace of mind as you are moving towards health and wellness.


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