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Life Flight to close four airbases in Oklahoma

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Posted at 7:42 PM, Apr 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 20:42:58-04

Four bases for Life Flight service is being cut in Oklahoma, a news release says.

The four bases that will close are:

Tulsa Life Flight 1 in Keefeton; Tulsa Life Flight 3 in Riverside; MediFlight of Oklahoma 1 in Chickasha; MediFlight of Oklahoma 2 in Seminole.

The company says it will cover those service areas with its remaining aircraft: The AirKids program associated with the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in OKC, Tulsa Life Flight 5 in McAlester, Tulsa Life Flight 2 in Pryor and Mediflight 5 in Stillwater.

- AirKids 1 in Oklahoma City, which will continue to serve the Chickasha/Grady County area for neonatal trips. Other air medical providers will also cover the region;
- Tulsa Life Flight 5 aircraft in McAlester will provide coverage for the Keefeton region;
- Tulsa Life Flight 2 in Pryor will provide IFT NICU flights to the Riverside region;
- Tulsa Life Flight 5 in McAlester, which will cover the Seminole region.

Air Methods announced it came to the decision after a cost analysis determined that it can realign its operations and serve the state with fewer overhead costs, such as maintaining an air base.

“The cost of this around-the-clock readiness averages nearly $3 million per year for each air base, according to a cost study prepared for the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS),” the company says in a news release. “Further, approximately 85 percent of costs are fixed costs associated with operating an air base…”

Air Methods also says reimbursement for services has not kept up with costs. The company says 75 percent of its transports are Medicare, Medicaid and self-pay/uninsured.

“Medicare… established the current air medical service payment rates in 2002 based on an estimated 1998 cost pool,” the release says. “Today, the average Medicare per-transport reimbursement covers approximately half of the cost per transport, according to the AAMS study.”

The dispatch center will not experience any interruption in service during the reduction in air bases.

Also keep in mind, Life Flight is not the only medical helicopter service in the state. Air Evac and Eagle Med also service emergencies and provide lifesaving care by air transport.

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