Calstar responders handle a medical emergency on the Mendocino County coast.

Calstar Air Medical Services.

Operators May Scale Back Emergency Helicopters In Remote Areas Of State

Jeffrey Schaub
June 12, 2019 - 11:10 pm

SANTA ROSA — Operators who fly helicopters to remote parts of Sonoma and Mendocino counties and other parts of California for medical emergencies warn that they may have to cut services if the state doesn't continue providing Medi-Cal reimbursements.

Christian Giller, a representative for California’s air medivac providers, including Calstar and Reach, said that the continuing funding for the air ambulances is vital to the health of rural areas.

"It’s vital especially for those rural communities that you transport from, the scene of a motor vehicle collision and trauma patients from those scenes," said Giller. 

According to him, 40% of patients rescued by air are on Medi-Cal. Until this year, the state helped reimburse the emergency helicopters through a $4 fine attached to traffic violations. 

So far, state lawmakers haven't found a way to make up for the lost money. 

Giller predicts that one in four operators will go belly up next year without the reimbursement. 

"We don’t even make up the amount of money that we need to do the transport," said Giller. "We operate at such a low level that is doesn’t even cover the cost of the transport.”

Members of the legislature from the North Coast and East Bay say they are working hard to find a revenue source before the reimbursement program expires in December.