Public input sought on Wyoming air ambulance service issues

WYOMING – State residents are invited by the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) to offer their thoughts, ideas and perspectives on air ambulance service online or during two upcoming public meetings.

Horror stories abound regarding emergency response at the scene of an accident. And ‘shock’ is not something always defined in the medial sense.

For those fortunate enough to have survived life-threatening injuries in Wyoming, the suffering can often come later—when you get the bill. Citizens have complained for years about the high cost of air ambulance service in Wyoming. Routine charges in the $30,000 to $50,000 range, sometimes as much as $100,000, for a life-flight have staggered even victims carrying the most robust of health insurance plans.

And often it is a life-or-death decision the victim does not get to make. EMTs usually have to make the call for unconscious victims. But what if you were coherent but injured and struggling with the decision of a $5,000 ground ambulance charge, or a $50,000 air ambulance? If you choose the cheaper alternative and die, can your family later sue?

The Wyoming Legislature tackled a few complexities surrounding the rising cost of air ambulance service in the state this past session. One failed bill would have removed the state’s statutory obligation to pay all injured worker’s medical care costs through workers’ compensation.

Another bill did pass into law earlier this year intended to help address air ambulance coverage and cost issues. The legislation requires WDH to develop a plan to ensure affordable air ambulance transportation in the state for submission to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

In that effort, the first public meeting is planned for Riverton on May 15 from 5-7pm at Central Wyoming College in Main Hall Classroom 171. A second public meeting, focused on air ambulance providers, will be held on May 16 from 9am to noon in Casper at Casper College in Strausner Hall Room 217. An online comment opportunity can also be found at airambulancewaiver.wyo.gov.

Important questions about air ambulance service include:

  • How big of a problem is affordability and balance billing?
  • What kind of access to air ambulance do we need?
  • How much are we willing to pay for that access?
  • How much should individuals pay in the rare event they need an air ambulance?

The first two public meetings will include both a presentation on the department’s intended plan, as well as a listening session for public comment. Another series of meetings will be held in July after the plan is finalized.
People who might be particularly interested in voicing their opinions include:

  • Members of the public who have had an air ambulance flight
  • Medical providers who deal with air ambulance
  • Hospital leadership and staff
  • Air ambulance providers and staff

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