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County council to hear Air Methods proposal
Air Methods
(Air Methods website photo)

Representatives from Air Methods -- the parent company of LifeNet of South Carolina -- will make a presentation to Kershaw County Council during its meeting tonight. LifeNet provides emergency helicopter service for patients needing to be transported in Kershaw County to KershawHealth and other hospitals in the Midlands.

Based on materials attached to tonight’s proposed agenda, Air Methods’ presentation appears to focused on recognizing that it has been criticized in the past for its billings methods, but launched a patient advocacy program in 2016 that has improved things. Although the agenda item is listed as “Air Methods Commuinty Partnership,” the printed material claims, the changes the company has made during the last three has not only led to patient cost savings, but a decrease in patient complaints.

 “The average out-of-pocket for patients who work with us through the Patient Advocacy program ranges from less than $100 to up to $3,000 per patient, depending on their plan,” the company wrote. “We know that each patient’s insurance and financial situation is different, and we work to match any balance with their ability to pay.”

Air Methods states in the documents that at least 85 million Americans live more than hour’s drive from a Level I or Level II trauma center; that it costs an average of $3 million annually to operate a single air medical base, such as the one at Kershaw County’s Woodward Field; and that seven out of 10 patients it transports have Medicare or Medicaid and pay below the cost of transport.

What Air Methods appears to be ready to propose is some type of “membership” with the membership itself being of no cost to patients.

“All patients who are transported by us will (then) have access to robust services to help with the post-flight billing process and avoid costly out-of-pocket expenses,” the company said.

It may do so through what it calls community partnerships. The document attached to the agenda stated that Air Methods “partners with local government entities to ensure that local residents have access to our lifesaving air ambulance services” without having to worry about high out-of-pocket costs. “Our Community Partnership Program is an alternative to a membership for a city/county that still wants to provide financial assistance to their residents in the event of an air medical transport,” it said.

The partnership would, the document claims:

• include no upfront cost to the county to participate;

• the county would set aside money to cover any air medical costs not covered by insurance, up to pre-negotiated amount;

• the county would only pay if a resident receives care from Air Methods and that patient is left with a balance after insurance; and

• if no one in the county receives care from Air Methods, there would be no cost to the county, which could then use the set aside money for other purposes.

Tonight’s agenda also indicates that Councilman Jimmy Jones has requested that Air Methods’ proposal be taken up under “New Business.”

In addition to Air Methods’ presentation, council will also hear from Economic/Tourism Director Suzi Sale about this year’s upcoming Ag+Art Tour. Under New Business, council will also receive an update concerning the 2020 Census.

In other business, council will consider:

• third reading of an ordinance effecting a zoning change for 21.01 acres of land on Precipice Road from R-15 to RD-1 so it can be used as a wedding venue;

• second reading of an ordinance enacting a $25 fee for each parcel of land within a proposed new fire district in the unincorporated area of the county and $25 per vehicle maintained on property within the fire district;

• second reading of an ordinance approving the county’s proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget;

• second reading of an ordinance setting he county’s millage rate for the 2020 fiscal year; and

• second reading of an ordinance amending Chapter 13 (public utilities) of the Kershaw County Code.

Tonight’s meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at the Kershaw County Government Center, 515 Walnut St., Camden, and is open to the public.