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County board to consider medivac membership group

  • A medical helicopter transports a patient after a vehicle accident in February. The Randolph County commissioners are considering a membership group that may save citizens money should they require the services of a medivac.

    A medical helicopter transports a patient after a vehicle accident in February. The Randolph County commissioners are considering a membership group that may save citizens money should they require the services of a medivac.
    Herald Tribune File Photo

By Pete Spitler
updated: 6/30/2017 5:43 PM

The county commissioners appear to be willing to consider a membership group that may ultimately save citizens money should they require the services of a medical helicopter.
During the board's Friday meeting, Mike Kennedy (of Air Methods Corporation) presented his company's Air Methods Advantage, a new membership program that started in April and could lower the cost of a medivac to $20 per family and $5 per individual based upon a group rate of 1,500 people.
"The prices of air medical transport have skyrocketed," Kennedy said. "It is a real benefit."
To individually sign up, the cost would be $75 per family and $45 per individual on an annual basis. People do not have to have health insurance to sign up for the program and it can be billed to health and auto insurance.
Air Methods Corporation lists Arch Air Medical Service - which has been serving the area since 1979 and has a base in Sparta - as one of its services and works with all three trauma centers in St. Louis.
Kennedy said Air Methods Advantage is also available in the contiguous 48 states should medical transport be required outside of Randolph County. He noted that Air Evac on McBride Hill also has a membership program, and the two cannot honor each other's agreements.
Thus, most people buy both.
"It's one of those things that's nice to have in hopes you never need it," Kennedy said, noting that the number of medical flights has decreased due to cost.
Kennedy stated that the benefit to Randolph County is opening up the membership to a group or large number of people. He said it costs $14,000 to $15,000 just to make the flight, with the average cost of a southern Illinois to St. Louis trip at $45,000 to $50,000.
Kennedy stated that the program is known as a "membership" rather than "insurance" as they cannot guarantee service.
"There may be times they are down for weather or maintenance and not able to make flights," he said.
Kennedy said his request of the commissioners was they agree to be a group to advertise to citizens about the program. The county would allegedly not assume any liability or cost for doing so.
"All you are as Randolph County is a group name," he said.
The commissioners took no action on the proposal, stating they would present it to State's Attorney Jeremy Walker and the county's insurance carrier for review.
In other news, the commissioners heard from both county engineer Mike Riebeling and Randolph County Health Department Interim Administrator Stephanie Martin about the effects of the state's budget crisis.
The state is set to enter the new fiscal year on Saturday without a budget for the third year in a row.
Martin stated that the health department would be paid for work done through June 30, but starting Monday, no new contracts for case management - which includes federal pass-through dollars for programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grants - would be awarded.
"We are low on cash," she said. "It's gotten to a tight position."
Martin added the state is two months behind on Medicaid payments.
"It's gotten pretty bleak," she said.
Commissioner Dave Holder said he would meet with Martin to discuss how to move forward amid the backdrop of the state budget mess.
For his part, Riebeling announced that the Bluff Road resurfacing project would be shut down later that day due to the state's ongoing budget impasse.
"Because of the state budget issues, the Bluff Road project will be shut down because of no money being appropriated for it," he said.
Riebeling noted the contractor on the project, E.T. Simonds Construction Company of Carbondale, has enough working days left on it to last into August.
"That is if they can start right back up, but we don't know when that will be," Riebeling said.
• The commissioners approved fireworks permits for Lake Camp-A-Lot and Orr Farm in advance of Tuesday's Independence Day celebrations.
"These are people who have repeatedly done it in the right way," said Commissioner Marc Kiehna.
• General assistance for the period was $500. The Randolph County Care Center had 70 residents.
• The commissioners approved the new quarterly meeting dates of July 14 and 28, August 11 and 25 and September 8 and 22. All at 9 a.m.
• After the meeting Commissioner Dave Holder, who is the county's budget director, was asked how it would affect the county if the state's credit rating was reduced to "junk."
"I'm sure it's going to affect the care center, how I don't know yet," he said. "I think it will raise some questions."
• Kiehna gave an update on a recent meeting of the Four-County Highway Coalition, which is set to meet again on July 26 at Murphysboro City Hall. He noted that all counties involved have passed resolutions in support of the Pinckneyville-to-Waterloo highway proposal, with the next step of taking it to villages and cities.
"It seems to be building some momentum slowly," Kiehna said.
• Randolph County Treasurer Justin Jeffers noted mobile home taxes are due July 7. Delinquent taxes will be assessed a penalty of $25 not to exceed $100.

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