UPDATE: 3:38 p.m. Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
(Clarinda) -- Disparities in Medicare reimbursement payments are forcing LifeNet 2/3 Helicopter out of Clarinda.
Officials with Air Methods, the company operating the air ambulance service, confirmed Tuesday afternoon it will no longer maintain LifeNet's base at Clarinda Regional Health Center. In a statement provided to KMA News, company officials say the decision to leave Clarinda was made "after a thorough review and analysis of its operations." Air Methods cites one big reason for the pullout: the company says current reimbursement models for Medicare are not sustainable for continued operations at CRHC.
In the statement, Air Methods states the cost of the helicopter's around-the-clock readiness averages nearly $3 million per year for each air base, according to a cost study prepared for the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS). Further, approximately 85% percent of costs are fixed costs associated with operating an air base, giving companies little leeway in reducing costs on their own. However, Air Methods says reimbursement for services has not kept up with costs. Medicare, which covers air medical services in emergency cases only, established the current air medical service payment rates in 2002 based on an estimated 1998 cost pool. Today, the average Medicare per-transport reimbursement covers approximately half of the cost per transport, according to the AAMS study.
LifeNet 2/3 Helicopter began operations at its Clarinda base in 2012 as part of an agreement between CRHC and Air Methods. The air ambulance's departure means Air Methods will continue to cover its service area with other medical aircraft: LifeFlight-UnityPoint, associated with UnityPoint Health in Carroll, LifeNet 1/1 based in Omaha, and LifeNet 2/2 based in St. Joseph. Air Methods says it's dispatch center will not experience any interruption in service. The company is also working with all employees on opportunities for other positions within Air Methods or their next career steps.
CRHC officials reacted to a statement on its Facebook page, saying, quote, "rest assured, LifeNet services will still be available at CRHC when the patient needs arises, and we will continue to work with Lifenet and utilize their air ambulance services."
ORIGINAL STORY: 2:06 P.M. Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
(Clarinda) -- Emergency services in KMAland have suffered a major setback.
In a message on its Facebook page Tuesday afternoon, Clarinda Regional Health Center announced that LifeNet 2/3 Helicoper is closing its base at the hospital. LifeNet 2/3 first came to CHRC in 2012 under an agreement with LifeNet/Air Methods. The air ambulance primarily serves an area within a 40-mile radius of Clarinda, with the ability to stretch greater distances for emergencies.
CHRC's Facebook statement reads to LifeNet is not closed, that the helicopter still has other bases, and will continue to serve southwest Iowa. Hospital officials add, quote, "rest assured, LifeNet services will still be available at CRHC when the patient needs arises, and we will continue to work with Lifenet and utilize their air ambulance services."
KMA News reached out to LifeNet company officials for comment on the decision to close the Clarinda base. More information will available in later news stories.