published Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Kimball, Tenn., eyes air ambulance insurance

KIMBALL, Tenn. -- City leaders have chosen to get special coverage for Kimball employees and their families for air transport to a medical facility, and they are considering a similar plan for all Kimball residents.

The Kimball Board of Mayor and Alderman voted recently to pay an annual fee of $60 for each of the city's 16 full-time employees to cover the costs of any ride on any AirMedCare Network emergency flight, including Chattanooga's Life Force air ambulances.

Kimball is about a 20-minute drive west on Interstate 24 from downtown Chattanooga.

Jimmy Morris, an AirMedCare representative, said the new program "spreads out the costs" for such flights not only among the community, but also across much of the nation. The network is in 28 states and has 300 bases of operation.

"After you're flown, you're going to get a bill," he said. "Your health insurance will cover a portion of it. The other portion, you'll have to pay out of pocket."

The average bill in the Marion County area is $25,000 or $30,000 after insurance has paid its portion, Morris said.

He said membership in the AirMedCare Network eliminates those hefty out-of-pocket costs.

"That means whatever portion your insurance covers will be considered by AirMedCare as payment in full," he said. "It's as simple as that. This program is getting bigger. It's getting a lot of traction because of people getting those bills."

The board will examine a municipal site plan for Kimball this month and will consider signing up for citywide coverage for all residents at its next meeting, on Nov. 7.

The annual fee to cover about 500 households within the city limits is about $7,500, officials said, but they can't be sure about the exact price until the site plan study is completed.

City employees will be covered everywhere in the network, but if Kimball chooses to enroll its residents those emergency flights must occur within Marion County, officials said.

Residents then could sign up individually for coverage throughout the AirMedCare Network at a reduced rate of $35 per household per year.

Bledsoe was the first county "this side of the Mississippi" to sign on for residential membership because its populace is "so spread out," Morris said.

Bledsoe's membership payment worked out to be about $6 per household, he said.

Alderman Johnny Sisk said the board needs to look into the membership benefits and options for residents more thoroughly before making a decision.

Alderman Mark Payne said he would like to see some "firm numbers" on residential coverage, but he plans to sign up for the individual membership whether the city proceeds with residential coverage or not.

"I'm kind of accident-prone," he said. "It'd probably be the best $35 I've ever spent in my life."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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