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South Dakota’s Uninsured Rate Makes Spearfish Air Ambulance Service Unsustainable

Black Hills Life Flight was able to sustain operations at its new base in Spearfish for only fourteen months. The air ambulance service is closing its Queen City operation, in part because South Dakota doesn’t insure enough people:

[Life Methods spokesman Doug] Flanders said it costs about $3 million annually per air base and the reimbursement rates from Medicaid and Medicare as well as a high uninsured rate in South Dakota, the ability to maintain the base at the Black Hills Airport/Clyde Ice Field was not sustainable.

“Today, the average Medicare per-transport reimbursement covers approximately half of the cost per transport,” Flanders said, citing an Association of Air Medical Services study.

“In South Dakota, over 70% of our transports are Medicaid, Medicare, and self-pay/uninsured, which combined reimburses less than 30% of overall costs,” he said. “… Medicaid in South Dakota pays roughly $2,500 per patient transport, with Medicare covering around $6,000, and self-pay/uninsured normal out-of-pocket is $125 [Mark Watson, “Life Flight Leaves Spearfish Airport,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2019.09.21].

Boy, it would be nice if we as a state were willing to pony up the cash it takes to pay for saving our neighbors’ lives instead of making it rain on big corporate hog farms who can already get a fair price for their bacon on the free market.


  1. Dana P 2019-09-23 08:49

    But we spent half a million on the critter bounty, so there is that! (grrrrr)

    Once politicians in this state start doing something about affordable, accessible, and quality health care – SAVING LIVES!! – they really have no right to carry that ‘pro life’ banner.

  2. gus Middendorp 2019-09-23 09:13

    did they not know this about the people and patients in south Dakota before starting this? all they had to do is ask any hospital, clinic, or ambulance service in the state

  3. Nick Nemec 2019-09-23 11:44

    Dana P. plus around $1,000,000 for thee free trap giveaway.

  4. Steve Pearson 2019-09-23 15:16

    Reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid before the not enough insured…and the meat of the article is talking about medicare and medicaid. Makes me wonder what “Medicare for All” would do to services like this? Or would ambulance and transport then also become govt?

    Pathetic. You write another blog post to dig at SD but in reality the part of not enough insured is not near the problem. 70% of their transports are medicare people!

    Oh but that’s it. Govt takes over healthcare and we can do death panels! Now I see what you’re hoping for. Abort babies. Kill old people. Govt runs everything. We take in the world’s population. We tax everyone at 90% except those making low income.


  5. Debbo 2019-09-23 21:09

    I’m with Dana P. Expanding Medicaid is easy, low hanging fruit.

  6. jerry 2019-09-23 22:23

    We already have death panels in South Dakota thanks to not expanding Medicaid.
    Medicaid Expansion would help cover the costs of ambulance services that are currently absorbed by the county taxpayers. Wait until you get in a bind out there on the highway to hell and hope that you don’t bleed out because you cannot get an air ambulance to you. Yep, that would show them, right Steve?
    Presently, we have closed nursing homes that endanger the welfare of those who live there.
    Abort babies? Are you high again Steve?

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-24 12:29

    Steve, if government did not provide Medicare, how many Americans over 65 would have reliable and affordable health insurance?

    Far more old people would die from lack of coverage and access to care without Medicare than from any single-payer system, which has not shown evidence of marching old people to death camps in any country that has adopted it.

  8. Steve Pearson 2019-09-24 13:57

    You claimed the service was closing because of uninsured Cory. Clearly the story is low reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid. Do you now see your disconnect?

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-25 18:11

    Read again, Steve, first sentence: “Flanders said it costs about $3 million annually per air base and the reimbursement rates from Medicaid and Medicare as well as a high uninsured rate in South Dakota, the ability to maintain the base at the Black Hills Airport/Clyde Ice Field was not sustainable.”

    I know it pains you to keep coming here and finding that I tell truths you don’t like every day, but there it is. Please don’t salve your disappointment by lying about me or about the news I report. Lies will erode your soul.

  10. mike from iowa 2019-09-25 19:02

    Hang a wreath on Pearson’s nose. His brain has passed away entirely. But that is what happens to all wingnuts eventually. Consumed by hate.

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