I was flying the line in Winona Mississippi a few months back, and a woman approached me as I was grabbing a cup of coffee on the way out the door of the Holiday Inn.
"Do you work for Air Evac?"
I told her that I don't, and that another program had recently commenced operations in town.
She said "Oh, I just love Air Evac, and I have their insurance coverage for my entire family."
Times like this present a challenge, because as someone who has been around HEMS for a long time, I have become aware of business practices employed by many operators that are (carefully now...)
sub-optimal. I don't like to disparage any firm or person to an industry-outsider. As Kevin High explained, that's not the way to get ahead. If I disparage a HEMS operator to a stranger, it makes me look and feel shabby. And there is enough shabbiness in our industry already...
As I was driving to work that day, I thought about the "subscription" program that more than one HEMS provider has offered over the years. These programs offer to cover the cost of air medical transport on a company's aircraft for a nominal annual fee. This is not insurance - and the companies are quick to point that out - because the insurance industry has it's own set of rules and regulations.
There is no guarantee that air transport service will be provided if needed, only that if service is provided any portion of a transport bill not covered by a patient's health or car insurance is waived by the HEMS provider selling the subscription.
The bill for air medical transport often exceeds what the patient's insurance will reimburse, and the patient is stuck for the balance unless the insurance is one of the government programs like Medicare or Tricare that prohibit balance-billing.
There is one problem with purchasing a subscription however. There are more than 900 HEMS helicopters in the country, operated by several different companies, and there is no way of ensuring that the company you subscribe to will be the one called to come get you.
Bass Pro Shops "gift" cards notwithstanding...
So unless you were to purchase a subscription to ALL of the different companies, the subscription could very well be worthless.
As I was thinking about this, I realized that someone could offer to cover the cost of a flight on any EMS aircraft and immediately undercut the need for a subscription. If the rate for "coverage" was comparable to the current subscription prices, any thinking person would opt for universal protection. And real insurance...
Well, it's already been done, by a firm called LifeShield Alliance, and a gentleman named Rick Ifland. Googling and reading his info, one can see why he got there first.
It seems that Rick isn't just interested in making money, he is also interested in making the world, well... better.
Nice work Rick. We wish you every success.