2 Arkansas air ambulance bases close after lawsuit is tossed

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Two Arkansas air ambulance bases closed because their operator wasn’t earning enough money from medical flights to keep them open.

Air Evac Lifeteam closed its bases in Morrilton and Paragould after a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of the company’s lawsuit seeking higher rates for medical flights, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The company argued the amount it was reimbursed for such trips doesn’t come close to covering the costs, which it says violates a federal law governing certain health plans and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“More than 70% of these people we fly are either on Medicare, Medicaid, or have no insurance,” said Seth Myers, the company’s president.

A 2017 study commissioned by the Association of Air Medical Services found that the median cost of air transport in 2015 was $10,199, while the Medicare reimbursement for a trip was $5,998.

The federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds that the company didn’t have standing to sue and the company’s reimbursement practices did not violate the Deceptive Practices Act.

Helicopter services will continue to be available in the areas that had been served by the Paragould and Morrilton bases, according to Greg Brown, branch chief for trauma, stroke, heart attack and emergency medical services for the Arkansas Department of Health.

“We certainly don’t like to lose helicopter bases, but I think as far as the impact it will have on the citizens of Arkansas, it will be minimal, if any,” Brown said.

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