Quality and Safety at Risk!
Several recent events have been a concern regarding fixed wing air medical services. The issue of aviation transport brokers representing themselves as air ambulances is one. The other issue is that some air ambulance providers are charging outrageous and unadvertised costs for transport. These are unacceptable in this age of transparency.
Ethical business practices by some companies jeopardize their own volumes because they are competing with unscrupulous providers who are mainly concerned with increasing their profit margin. Quality and safety are at risk under these conditions.
CAMTS recently visited the Department of Transportation (DOT) to once again to bring these issues to their attention. We have been told in the past, the DOT can fine companies without a FAA 135 Certificate who are misrepresenting themselves as an aircraft operator. Unfortunately, they could not do anything about the patient component of an air ambulance flight.
During this most recent visit with the DOT, we discussed flights that have been brought to our attention by the public. One flight for example, from Mexico, to San Diego, was contracted at a charge of $30,000 but when the patient received the bill – it was $300,000. Another flight from Paris to Boston was billed to insurance for $798,000.
Why does CAMTS care about these issues if they do not involve accredited services? Because our mission is to improve safety and quality overall. That means we have a responsibility to the public. Such practices reflect poorly on the entire air ambulance community. Perhaps brokers advertising as air ambulances and companies that charge way above current market values have been acceptable in the past; but these trends cannot continue – we need a change in culture.
We learned from visiting with a top official at the DOT that there is now an active Aviation Consumer Protection Division (under the DOT) and complaints such as unfair charges and flights conducted by a different entity than identified in the contract fall under the realm of this Agency. If you have encountered these situations – please contact the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the DOT at 866 835-5322 or file a complaint by email to airconsumer.dot.gov.