Air medical providers fly patients in crisis to the nearest appropriate health care facility for treatment.

*Editor's Note: This opinion is in response to an article titled “Missouri Senator hopes to lessen air ambulance costs” published in the Saturday, May 12, Courier-Post.

In response to your article, “Missouri Senator hopes to lessen air ambulance costs”, I wanted to highlight another consequence of Senator Claire McCaskill’s proposed legislation: access to health care for rural communities. Air medical providers fly patients in crisis to the nearest appropriate health care facility for treatment. Many times, especially in rural communities where hospitals are closing at alarming rates, emergency medical transport by air is the only way for patients to reach a facility in less than an hour.

Unfortunately, Senator McCaskill's legislation would put further limits on rural access to emergency care. Carving the air medical industry out of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) would lead to a patchwork of inconsistent state regulations and thereby erect borders in the sky. Thus, air medical providers would be forced to transport patients only to in-state facilities, which might not be the closest or most-appropriate facility. In Missouri specifically, 48 percent of Air Methods’, an air medical service provider, transports are interstate, meaning that almost half of the providers’ transports cross state lines to ensure a patient has timely access to the right care.

While I’m sure well intended, Senator McCaskill’s proposal could have a devastating impact on patient outcomes, while not addressing patient costs at all. The better way is for the insurer to cover the cost of these life-saving services. Isn’t that what insurance is for?

— Richard Sherlock, President and CEO, The Association of Air Medical Services