KIMBALL, Tenn. — Kimball residents needing an airlift from Marion County to a hospital won't have to pay extra for the trip once the city signs a deal with the AirMedCare Network.
The Kimball Board of Mayor and alderman voted unanimously last week to pay $9,750 per year for citywide membership in the network, which includes Chattanooga's Life Force helicopter.
The board voted last month to pay an annual fee of $60 for each of the city's 16 full-time employees for the same type of membership.
Officials said the membership will cover Kimball residents anywhere inside the county lines. The 2010 U.S. Census counted 584 households within the city limits.
Jimmy Morris, an AirMedCare representative, said the membership covers whatever costs that insurance doesn't pay. In Marion County, that bill could total more than $25,000.
Uninsured residents still will get a bill, he said, but it will be "a very small portion" of what that flight actually would cost.
Once the contract is finalized, Kimball residents will be able to sign up as individual households for coverage throughout the 28-state AirMedCare Network at a reduced rate of $35 per year.
The $35 annual fee would cover an entire household anywhere in the network, regardless of insurance coverage, Morris said. However, he added, TennCare patients can't be members because their flight would be covered by that program.
Bledsoe County signed on for a similar plan last month. Morris said the membership was put to use the very day it went into effect.
"About two hours after we signed it, a gentleman had a motorcycle wreck, and he was airlifted," he said. "That means he will not get a bill."
Two other emergency flights have occurred in Bledsoe over the last two weeks, Morris said, and each would have cost those patients more than $25,000 each after insurance had paid its portion.
"Again, that will be taken care of with membership," he said.
Alderman Mark Payne, who made the motion to accept the contract for membership, said Bledsoe paid about $8.78 per household, while Kimball will be charged $16.70 per household.
"I don't see our number being double," he said. "I'd like to hammer out some details and get this done myself. My personal feeling is that we need a little bit better terms and conditions for the money."
"[Bledsoe] is spread out more," Morris said. "I started working on their agreement back in May. So, rates have gone up a little bit. If [Kimball] has just one person flown, [the cost] is wiped out."
Officials said Life Force has made 117 flights to Marion County since January 2010.
Alderman Jerry Don Case said he doesn't have a problem with the terms of the AirMedCare contract.
"You're looking at $9,750 for everybody in the town," he said. "We paid out $30,000 for somebody to come in and sing once. This is a whole lot more important than getting somebody to come here and sing."
Once Kimball's contract is signed, AirMedCare and Life Force officials will begin hosting health fairs and sign-up drives, as well as sending out a mailer to residents about the membership details.
AirMedCare representatives also will set up in City Hall in the coming weeks to sign up residents for extended membership coverage, but officials haven't set those dates yet.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.