Together At Last!

Ground and Air Ambulance Services Launch New Membership Program

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

 

CROCKETT – A new partnership has come to fruition in Houston County in order better protect area residents in times of emergency. On Friday morning, Aug. 12, Houston County EMS and air rescue crews rolled out a membership program open to all residents of the oldest county in Texas. The cost of membership in the program is an affordable $115 per year and covers all members of a household.

As people from all over the county descended on the Crockett Civic Center to sign up, Tony Anteau – the VP of Operations for Lifeguard Ambulance Services – and Eddie Kaiser – the Program Director for Air Evac Lifeteam – sat down to discuss different aspects of the new membership program.

Anteau said, “We are actually partners, as far as the corporate structure goes. We are owned by the same parent company. So, one of the opportunities we have is to partner together and expand our opportunities, as far as the membership program. Effectively, the program is also a sister entity to both the air and ground sides. It is three different companies all coming together to form the membership. When we came to town a year ago, as we were meeting with the local officials and public safety folks, it was determined a need existed to have a membership program for both air and ground. We worked together over the past year and this is our first opportunity to have an air/ground membership program. It’s because of Houston County that we are able to bring this forward and we are now going to extend this through all of our service areas.”

“The first thought I had,” Kaiser added, “was one of excitement because other than one area service in the State of Texas, we are the only other one to provide this for a community. You know how big Texas is, so this is a really big deal for us. When I first came to Air Evac, the parent company of Air Rescue, underneath the AMGH umbrella – the mothership company, if you will – and realized we had a partnership and brotherhood with Lifeguard Ambulance at the hospital, it was a really big deal. To me, it is a close symbiotic relationship. When they started to talk about the air/ground membership program, this is the first undertaking of Air Evac with Lifeguard to launch a new type of program like this. It has been a work in progress, taken a lot of time and it’s very exciting today that we get to launch this. This is a huge benefit to the community, to those that live and work in this area and we look for it (membership program) to spread and go beyond.  It is an honor that we got to bring this to Houston County. Speaking for Air Evac, out of 138 nationwide flight bases to date, we were the first airbase to bring this forward. I know that Lifeguard has multiple areas as well. We’re excited. This is really a good thing for us and the community.”

Membership in the program is priced at $115 per year and when asked how the price was determined Anteau replied, “What you have to test is the cost of providing the service as opposed to the amount of services that you would use as part of the program. It is similar to any other membership service like AAA, you have to look at the benefits and the cost of providing the service, test it and make sure it will work. We wanted to make it as affordable and cost effective as possible for the community. The nice thing about this is that it is for everyone who lives in the household, whether they are related to you or not. If they have the same address and live under the same roof they are covered.”

Kaiser elaborated further and said, “The program itself, is designed to take the burden off the customer and place it on the insurance company. “

“I think one of the advantages of our membership network, compared to other services, is our membership program is by far the largest. We have over two million members throughout the country. When you have a service that large, you can cost out the price much more efficiently than a smaller, regionally based service would be able to,” Anteau said.

“I would also like to give a shout out to (Houston County) Judge (Erin) Ford. He has really been a catalyst for this from the beginning. He was the visionary behind this. He saw the need, discussed it with us and has been extremely supportive throughout this whole process. We are excited to celebrate with him later today when he comes out to be part of this momentous day with us,” he added.

Kaiser echoed his colleague’s sentiments. “I absolutely agree. Judge Ford was the catalyst as Tony said. It is a day of celebration.”

Both men said the partnership between the two also transferred over to working side by side with the Houston County Medical Center (HCMC). “What is really an advantage to what we have in Houston County, as opposed to other counties, is not only are we located at the hospital, Lifeguard is also located at the hospital. We have all the boots on the ground in the same area. That is really an advantage because if Lifeguard needs mutual aid, we will help them and vice versa. In addition, we will both help the hospital. It really is a huge circle of health care providers with different job descriptions working together for the patients of this community,” Kaiser explained

He further said, “Another nice thing about this is if we have to transfer a patient out of the hospital, we have what is called a chain of care. For instance, Lifeguard will go out and get a person, bring them to HCMC where they are stabilized and if they need to go to another level of care in a rapid fashion, we come in. Now we have all three working together and they, Lifeguard will help us bring the patient to the helicopter. There is a constant connection of patient care in this county and you may not see that in other counties.”

Asked specifically about any hidden fees, Anteau said, “The service is limited to those emergency situations where someone is calling 911. If they were to use the service for non-emergency services, it would fall outside of the membership.”

“If Lifeguard was to bring a patient in and they needed to be transported to a higher level of care by helicopter that would fall under the membership. Both transports would be covered,” Kaiser added.

“Another advantage,” Anteau explained, “we had talked about the scope and breadth of our operations being national so, if people covered by the membership happen to be traveling, and they are in an area serviced by one of our other air bases around the country, they would get that same benefit no matter where they were as long as they were in the service area where we could provide medically appropriate care for them, as well.”

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.