Excellus, Mercy Flight Central reach deal

News partner, News 10NBC
Mercy Flight Central has entered into an agreement with Excellus to provide in-network rates for critical care air medical services, which should prevent whopping out-of-pocket bills for transport, such as those some area residents have received in the past.

Mercy Flight Central announced it has entered into an agreement with Excellus to provide in-network rates for critical care air medical services.

This agreement establishes Mercy Flight Central within the Excellus network.

This means the agreement will be in effect for Univera Healthcare, Lifetime Benefit Solutions and participating plans within the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

The agreement comes following the Chronicle-Express news partner News 10NBC’s investigation into the costs of an air ambulance ride.

“We have been in negotiations with Excellus since early 2019 and are excited that this change will eliminate out-of-pocket costs to the patient other than applicable co-payments, co-insurance, or deductibles,” Mercy Flight Central President and CEO Jeff Bartkoski said. “This is a significant step forward to ensure our patients not only receive our services at a networked rate but will put them at ease to focus on their recovery.”

The agreement is effective as of March 1.

Mercy Flight Central is working to expand in-network agreements with other insurers as well.

News 10NBC earlier investigated the case of David Fultz, who was at work in the Village of Dundee when the excruciating pain in his left leg began. He drove himself to Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital in Penn Yan and was told they believed it was a blood clot and he would be sent to Rochester via Mercy Flight. Fultz was flown to Rochester General Hospital and rushed into emergency surgery. Doctors were able to get to the clot in time, saving his leg and his life.

A month or so later, a bill for his Mercy Flight trip arrived. It showed the base rate of his ride was $24,925 and then a $12,768 mileage fee was added, calculated at a rate of $266 per mile for the 48-mile trip.

The Fultzes have insurance through Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, so they figured the bill would be covered. But it turned out Mercy Flight Central was “Out of Network” — not only of Excellus’ network, but most other insurance networks too. Basically, the insurer decides how much it is going to pay and the rest is up to the patient to pay. In some cases, insurers pay the full bill minus any copays and coinsurance but not in this case: Excellus BCBS paid just $5,600 for Fultz’s flight.

Last year, a Wayne County family who lost their 4-year-old son in a fire were warned by Mercy Flight Central that the cost of his flight was just shy of $40,000, and Mercy Flight Central was not in Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Network.