Air Ambulance and the Future of American Medical Care
As healthcare costs rise exponentially, air ambulance can be one part of the solution for controlling costs, by enabling patients to access specialized medical care consolidated regionally rather than locally. The rising cost of healthcare in the U.S. is in the news almost every day, it seems. And it’s true: healthcare costs in the U.S. have increased from about 5 percent of GDP in 1960 to about 16 percent today. At the rate we’re going, we’ll be spending 20 percent of our national income on healthcare by 2020.
In response, many medical insurance companies have increased premiums, decreased the percentage of healthcare costs they’ll cover, and eliminated some kinds of coverage altogether. In addition, many state governments, especially, have cut back on funding for state health programs and state health insurance coverage. All of those cutbacks combined have led to the decrease in medical services, even closure of medical facilities – especially in rural areas, and especially of specialized medical services.
Yet people in rural areas still need access to specialized medical services. Imagine, for example, a young person in rural Ohio gets a concussion during a football game. The local doctor is concerned about traumatic brain injury (TBI) but doesn’t have the specialized training or equipment to properly diagnose or treat it. Or imagine an elderly woman in a small town in New York who falls and breaks her hip. The local hospital has no facilities to do hip replacement surgery, and the woman’s family all live in Florida.
The role of air medical transport
In any of these examples – and millions others like them – the role of an air ambulance is crucial. An air ambulance can transport those patients to the medical facilities where they can get the care they need.
A recent public policy paper by the MedEvac Foundation International explained it well: “Current financial pressures on the health care system will only increase. The mismatch between demand and resource availability is becoming more acute. These pressures will continue to erode the availability of hospital based delivery of specialty care and life-saving technologies, particularly in rural areas. The need for increased access to ever scarcer specialty care resources, and the increased need to make such care mobile will increase the need for air medical services.”
Air ambulance enables a more efficient system
Something needs to be done to contain healthcare costs that are spiraling out of control. Consolidating specialized medical services into regional centers makes a lot of sense. Because while an air ambulance may be expensive, it’s a whole lot more cost effective than staffing a traumatic brain injury rehabilitation center, for example, in every small city across the country. In essence, air ambulances allow specialized medical centers to serve much wider regions, which is far more cost effective.