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Alaska Lawmakers Vote To Allow Medevac Membership Programs

By | April 18, 2014

Legislation allowing medevac membership programs to continue is on its way to Gov. Sean Parnell for his signature.

The Alaska House unanimously approved Senate Bill 159 on Tuesday. It sailed through the Senate in late February.

An Airlift Northwest Lear Jet waits for a medevac call at Juneau’s airport. Airlift is ending its medevac insurance program in Alaska after losing a regulatory exemption.

An Airlift Northwest Lear Jet waits for a medevac call at Juneau’s airport. Airlift is ending its medevac insurance program in Alaska after losing a regulatory exemption.

The programs operated in Alaska for several years under an exemption, but Airlift Northwest’s AirCare was discontinued last year when the Division of Insurance said it no longer met state standards.

That resulted in lots of complaints from Southeast Alaskans, where AirCare had more than 3,000 members.

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, started working with the insurance division to come up with a fix and shared the resulting legislation with her Southeast colleagues. Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, introduced it in the Senate.

“It basically just exempts these types of membership programs from the Division of Insurance requirements and it sets into law a reasonable regulatory regime within the division that allows this program to continue,” Muñoz says.

She says the bill had a lot of support from retirees, the commercial fishing industry, and people who work in remote sites such as mining and timber.

An emergency medical flight to Seattle or Anchorage can cost $100,000 or more. Membership programs are a supplement to other health care insurance to cover the patient’s co-pay.

“The primary insurance will pick up generally about two-thirds of a medical transport and the membership involvement would allow that extra charge to be waived if that was the only extra coverage the individual had,” she says.

Once the governor signs the bill into law, Airlift Northwest and other medevac companies will be able again to provide their membership programs to individuals who also carry medical insurance.

In a previous interview with KTOO, Airlift Northwest executive director Chris Martin said the company has always been clear that AirCare is not an insurance program.

“What an AirCare membership guarantees you is that you have no out-of-pocket expenses or no co-pay. So we bill the insurance, we take what the insurance reimburses us and you as our AirCare member do not see a bill for any further services,” she explained.

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