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.