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Press File Photo Med-Trans representatives have pitched an idea to the Stark County Commission that would cover the cost for residents to fly in a Spirit Lifeline helicopter, shown in this undated photo, for medical reasons. The plan would cost households $13.50 and the county almost $129,000.

Med-air club: Air ambulance pitches membership plan; Stark County would pay $129K

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news Dickinson, 58602
The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

An air ambulance company pitched a deal to Stark County commissioners Tuesday that would likely be a good deal for citizens, but would cost the county a big chunk of change.

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To buy a membership for all county residents, at $13.50 per household, the county’s annual cost would be $128,812. That would cover most costs of Spirit Lifeline flights for county residents, which cost about $25,000 or more.

Sometimes insurance covers part of the cost, and sometimes it doesn’t.

“So it’s really kind of a crapshoot each time unfortunately,” said Will Winters, with business development at Med-Trans, an air ambulance company whose partners include the local Spirit Lifeline air ambulance.

Parent company AirMedCare Network has similar “municipal site plans” in 28 states that cover more than 1.4 million people.

With the membership, if any county resident is flown out of the county on an air ambulance, the company waives out-of-pocket expenses.

“It’s a quality-of-life issue,” membership sales manager Ryan Elkin said.

Winters said the municipal site plans work well in other rural areas or areas with oil and gas, like west Texas. The company has 25 to 30 of the plans in place nationwide, including with Billings County.

“We operate mainly in rural America, like southwestern North Dakota,” Winters said.

Uninsured citizens would only be billed the Medicare-allowable rate, he said.

The hefty price tag on a flight has stopped some from taking the flight, even if they’re told it’s necessary, Elkin said.

“We’re price-conscientious people up in this area,” Elkin said.

Commissioner Ken Zander brought up the large number of transient workers in the area.

“Who makes that decision that that person or that transfer is a county resident?” he asked.

Residency would have to be proven somehow, Elkin and Winters said, adding that it could be determined after the flight if default documents like a driver’s license hadn’t yet been switched to a Stark County address.

“What obviously could be a case-by-case situation,” Elkin told The Press.

When on the fence, they said they would honor the patient as a county resident.

“We’re gonna do the right thing according to the situation, obviously,” Elkin said.

The contract would be reconsidered yearly, and would take effect upon Med-Trans receiving payment an a signed agreement from the county, Elkin said.

Commissioners said they would think over the proposal.

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Katherine Lymn
(701) 456-1211
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