Kaiser Permanente Denials of Medical Air Transportation

By now, most Lopezians have heard or read about a number of denials from Kaiser Permanente associated with medical air transport by either Airlift Northwest or Island Air. The situation has impacted residents throughout the County and is part of what’s emerging as a national trend to more closely monitor the necessity of emergency air transport. As is the case with many issues related to the delivery of health care, we are very different here in San Juan County and emergency air transport is an essential component of  care delivery for islanders.

The LIHD Superintendent learned about this emerging situation soon after the start of the year and reached out to Kaiser to better understand what was happening. Over the past two months, Superintendent Presson has been working very closely with Lopez Island Fire & EMS Chief  Havner, Lopez Island County Council Member Jamie Stephens, the San Juan County EMS Medical Director, and various other leaders throughout the County. In addition, Superintendent Presson and Chief Havner have been working with the Board of Health to pursue a remedy, as the Board became very concerned with the implications on public health should this trend continue. There was a very informative discussion at the February 20th Board of Health meeting, which included representatives from both Airlift Northwest and Island Air. Click on the Board of Health meetings to access their videos.

At this time, the physician leadership from the County and Kaiser Permanente are scheduled to meet in the coming week. Their discussion will include a review of the cases in question as well as the processes in place that ensure every medical air transport in the County is at the direction of an emergency medical professional.

The LIHD continues to closely monitor the situation and will provide updates as they become available. For anyone who has experienced an air transport denial, both air operators have customer service representatives to assist you. Please contact either Airlift Northwest at 866-245-4373, or Island Air at 360-378-2376. In addition, Lopezians are encouraged to contact Lopez Fire & EMS for assistance.