FAIR Health Provides Window into Air Ambulance-Related Data
September 16, 2021
FAIR Health has created two infographics on current trends and patterns related to air ambulances. The first is on growth, costs and geography, the second on demographics and diagnoses. FAIR Health used both commercial and Medicare data to create the infographics. Sources included FAIR Health’s FH NPIC® dataset of billions of privately billed healthcare claim records (including Medicare Advantage), and the complete collection of national Medicare Fee-for-Service data FAIR Health receives as a certified national Qualified Entity.
In the coming weeks, the infographics will be followed by an amplified study on air ambulances. The full study will include detailed age breakdowns and state-by-state metrics, as well as analysis of outcomes of air versus ground ambulance.
Among the findings reported in the infographics:
Growth, Costs and Geography
- Air ambulance claim lines1 increased each year from 2016 to 2020 as a percentage of all ambulance (ground and air) claim lines. From 2016 to 2020, they increased 30.3 percent.
- From 2017 to 2020, average charges, estimated allowed amounts and Medicare reimbursements all increased for both fixed-wing (airplane) and rotary-wing (helicopter) air ambulances. (Costs studied are for the base service only and do not include mileage.)
- The average charges associated with fixed-wing air ambulance transports rose 27.6 percent, from $19,210 in 2017 to $24,507 in 2020. The average estimated allowed amounts rose 76.4 percent, from $8,855 to $15,624. The average Medicare reimbursements rose 4.7 percent, from $3,071 to $3,216.
- The average charges associated with rotary-wing air ambulance transports rose 22.2 percent, from $24,924 in 2017 to $30,446 in 2020. The average estimated allowed amounts rose 60.8 percent, from $11,608 to $18,668. The average Medicare reimbursements rose 4.7 percent, from $3,570 to $3,739.
- The states with the highest use of fixed-wing air ambulances as a percentage of all medical claim lines in that state in 2020 (in order from highest to lowest use) were Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana and New Mexico.
- The states with the highest average mileage for fixed-wing air ambulances in 2020 were Alaska (455 miles), Florida (444 miles), Georgia (429 miles), North Carolina (401 miles) and Indiana (382 miles).
- The states with the highest use of rotary-wing air ambulances as a percentage of all medical claim lines in that state in 2020 were Idaho, South Dakota, New Mexico, West Virginia and Wyoming.
- The states with the highest average mileage for rotary-wing air ambulances in 2020 were Hawaii (126 miles), North Dakota (115 miles), Wyoming (110 miles), Nebraska (94 miles) and New Mexico (90 miles).
Demographics and Diagnoses
- From 2016 to 2020, fixed-wing air ambulance transport was more associated with males than females in all age groups except for the age group 36 to 50 years.
- From 2016 to 2020, rotary-wing air ambulance transport was more associated with males than females in all age groups.
- The top diagnoses associated with fixed-wing air ambulance rides from 2016 to 2020 were (from most to least common) digestive system issues; heart attack; sprains, strains, breaks and fractures; chronic respiratory diseases; and general signs and symptoms involving the circulatory and respiratory systems.
- The top diagnoses associated with rotary-wing air ambulance rides from 2016 to 2020 were cerebrovascular issues and diseases, heart attack, head injury, injury to body and stroke.
1 “Claim lines” are the individual procedures or services listed on an insurance claim.