Frequently Asked Questions
What is the SOAR campaign?
Save Our Air Medical Resources is a national campaign dedicated to preserving access to emergency air medical services for Americans across the country by providing important education and resources to the public and to key decision and policy makers. Air medical resources are a critical element of emergency response across the country, particularly for people living in rural areas where access to trauma care facilities is quite often limited.
Who is involved in the campaign?
The SOAR campaign is supported by air medical service providers that operate in 48 states around the country. We are working with a broad range of stakeholders to preserve and expand this critical element of emergency response.
What is the impetus behind the SOAR campaign launch, why now?
Emergency air medicine is a critical element of healthcare delivery in the United States, particularly in rural communities. Since 1990, more than 22% of American Hospitals have closed, and today, there are hundreds of additional hospitals that are on the brink of closure in rural America. The result is that patients must travel farther to get emergency care.
30% of the U.S. population relies on air medical transport for access to Level I or Level II trauma centers for time-sensitive trauma injuries – in trauma, time critical in managing injuries and improving outcomes. Without air medical transport, these people literally have no way to get to trauma centers within that critical window.
Air medical transport providers – which most often use helicopters – provide a very high level of life-saving care that involves highly-trained nurses, paramedics, pilots, and state-of-the-art medical equipment. We only respond when called upon by a first responder or physician – we do not self-dispatch. And when they call, we go immediately, helping to expand the reach of hospitals and trauma centers and ensuring that rural communities maintain access to medical care. We do so in one of the most regulated industries in the country.
There is an unsustainable problem, however: air medical service providers are being squeezed by drastically low government reimbursement rates and some insurers who refuse to negotiate in good faith. The result is that the burden of paying for air medical transport is being shifted to insured beneficiaries, and worse, real lives and rural communities are being put at risk.
Air medical transport is essential for rural communities to have access to high quality, timely trauma, cardiac and stroke care. It is time to act to preserve this critical service.
What are you hoping to accomplish with the SOAR campaign?
Most importantly, we want to preserve air medical service to communities all over the country.
To do that, we must fix the dramatic shortfall in Medicare reimbursement by passing S. 1149 and H.R. 822, which helps bridge the gap in payments versus actual costs and enables the issue to be studied in depth. The Medicare fee schedule for air medical transport was set in 1998 and was completely disconnected from actual cost data – this status quo cannot hold.
At the local level, states must take similar action to align reimbursement rates for Medicaid with the true cost of service.
And lastly, insurers and air medical transport providers must work in good faith to forge fair in-network agreements.
The vast majority of patients are being transported because they have suffered a serious cardiac event, stroke, or trauma.
When there is a trauma or an acute injury, air medical services are dispatched by either a physician or first-responder. Emergency air medical transport providers do not self-dispatch, but rather respond and deploy. Helicopters are deployed without regard to a patient’s ability to pay – safe transport and clinical care are the only concerns.
When transporting patients, air medical services provide a ICU-level life-saving care.
How does the air medical industry work?
There are a number of ways you can get involved in the SOAR campaign, ranging from contacting your legislator on behalf of the campaign, signing up for the campaign to get updates along the way, or even sharing a story about how air medical has impacted your life.