by Laurie D. Morstad
The South Big Horn County Hospital District’s board of directors voted during its meeting Thursday, March 26, to not renew its contract with AirMedCare Network-Guardian Flight for air transport insurance for residents of the hospital district.
For the past two years, if Guardian Air transport was used, there was no cost to residents of the hospital district — whether in the county or in another state that Guardian served. The cost to the hospital to cover this service was roughly $57,000 per year.
The contract expired on Feb. 14, 2020, according to Katelynn Parker, the manager of marketing for AMCN/Guardian air flight.
During the board meeting, CEO Tadd Greenfield cited difficulty of getting data from Guardian Air regarding transports. He noted that there were 43 flights out of Big Horn County. Of those, few came to the SBHC emergency room. “Billings or Cody is where (BHC residents) go.”
Greenfield stated, “I don’t think we can afford it. Split those two years we covered, it hurt us. It’s a nice thing to have, nice thing to do, but I don’t think we can afford it.”
Greenfield said Washakie County has a countywide contract with Guardian that is a budgeted item approved by the commissioners of the county. In BHC the hospital district took on that cost for two years.
Greenfield said Cody Regional Ambulance did a time study that did not show a major difference for ground ambulance to arrival in Cody or to the border
of Montana for transfer to a
Billings-bound ground ambulance. During discussion all board members agreed that this expense was not one they wished to continue and suggested that residents buy policies for their families.
Those policies, however, are no longer sold to Wyoming residents. AirMedCare Network, the parent company, on March 28 announced that it will no longer be selling Guardian Flight memberships in the state of Wyoming. They will continue to honor all contracts in effect. This went into effect on April 1, 2020.
In a released statement to all insured with AMCN/Guardian Flight, they stated, “We are writing to let you know about the recent passage of Wyoming Statute 26-5-103(a) (ii), which went into effect on April 1. The aim of the statute is to prevent you and other residents of Wyoming from being able to participate in air ambulance membership programs like AirMedCare Network.
“Although we feel strongly that the actions of the Wyoming Insurance Commission violate federal law and put the residents of Wyoming at risk, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily cease selling memberships in Wyoming for air ambulance transport services in Wyoming.
AirMedCare Network will continue to honor your current membership through its expiration date.”
Parker confirmed that new contracts are not being offered in Wyoming. She noted the helicopter bases in Cody and Riverton, along with fixed-wing airplane bases in Lander, Gillette and Worland remain where they are and will serve the area.
Parker said residents of Wyoming would now be responsible for co-pays, deductibles and balance of the bill if flown by an AirMedCare Network provider in Wyoming. This does not include residents who purchased and have an individual contract. They will recognize current policies until their expiration dates.
On the AirMedCare Network webpage the company noted that the cost of air transport could top $40,000 per patient transport. Private insurance will be billed and the patient would be responsible for the non-covered amount.
CEO Greenfield noted that the emergency flights affect a very small percentage of residents in south Big Horn County.