Sep 17, 2019

Air ambulances create memberships for patients

Photo: Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Air ambulance companies are selling memberships as assurance that if a patient needs their services, they won't get slammed with massive bills. But these subscription services have drawn national skepticism, Kaiser Health News reports.

Between the lines: Air ambulances often aren't covered by private insurance, and they're becoming more expensive at the same time that they're becoming more necessary in rural areas without access to emergency care.

  • They're one solution to rural hospital closures that leave patients stranded, and they portray themselves as a safety net for the people who live in these communities.

Yes, but: Some state regulators say the membership services aren't as helpful as they're advertised to be, and one of the nation's largest air ambulance providers has decided against offering them.

  • The air ambulance that responds to an emergency call may not be the one that that patient has a membership with.
  • Patients who sign up for memberships would still get billed and then have to work through their insurance to handle it, often a frustrating and time-consuming process.
  • Air ambulance companies aren't officially insurance, so they can end the membership at any time without notifying the patient — which could be an unpleasant surprise following an emergency.

Go deeper: How air ambulances got so expensive

Go deeper

Four health care questions for a better Democratic debate

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

If tonight’s Democratic debate is anything like the earlier ones, it will feature an extended back-and-forth about whether to eliminate private health insurance, and then move on from health care. But there’s a whole lot more that’s also worth asking about.

The big picture: We basically know what the candidates will say about the question of private insurance, because they’ve said it all before. So here are four other questions that might also help illuminate the choice voters face on such a deeply personal, wildly complex topic.

Go deeperArrowOct 15, 2019

Automakers could use vehicle data to compete with auto insurers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Automakers are beginning to offer subscription packages that include insurance, typically via a third-party provider. Tesla has gone a step further, recently announcing it will offer its own policies, which may signal a larger shift in auto insurance.

Why it matters: The volume of vehicle behavioral data that connected vehicles will generate could be leveraged by automakers to edge into the insurance market, while enabling them to proactively protect drivers by recommending safer routes.

Go deeperArrowSep 20, 2019

Rural America's doctor crisis

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Washington Post's Eli Saslow profiles the life of Ed Garner, the only doctor serving 11,000 square miles in West Texas.

The big picture: This isn't unusual. Rural America often has high health care needs but is increasingly faced with limited health care services.

Go deeperArrowSep 30, 2019