Feb 242017

Why LifeNet’s Proposal Must Be Addressed

Guest Editorial by Mike Allen……..

It affects every resident of the Keys and everyone who visits. It has a direct impact on your personal safety, your family’s safety, and it could even affect the region’s tourism industry. It is the situation that has left the Keys’ air ambulance services in limbo.

As you may have heard or read, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners recently voted to purchase an additional helicopter for Trauma Star, the county-run emergency air ambulance service. Trauma Star is one of two air ambulance services currently serving the Keys; LifeNet is the other.

Our company operates LifeNet in Key West, and we submitted a proposal to the County Administrator to address heartfelt concerns from Keys residents about the cost of air ambulance services – costs that were not covered by patients’ insurance. Our solution: a proposal that calls for the County to pay a relatively modest offset (less than a third of the cost of the helicopter it plans to purchase for Trauma Star). In fact, it will only cost 44 cents, per resident, per month.

However, to date, the solution we’re proposing has not been formally considered or voted on by the Board of County Commissioners.

If the County were to accept our solution, then LifeNet could continue to operate in the Keys as a backup to Trauma Star, and we would no longer need to collect out-of-pocket costs from Monroe County residents. Considering the life-or-death nature of the services we provide, shouldn’t we have a chance to stand up before the Commissioners, formally present our proposal, and have it put to a vote?

Time Magazine named Key West one of the 10 most dangerous places to vacation, based on its lack of trauma services. And it’s true that both Trauma Star and LifeNet helicopters are often in flight at the same time.

With this proposal, LifeNet can continue to fly, and the Keys will be perceived as a safer place to visit.

We believe two air ambulance services are better than one, and more than five-hundred Keys residents demonstrated their agreement, sending in cards and emails. If you also agree that the Keys deserves access to two emergency air ambulance providers, see how your voice can be heard. Visit LifeNetKeyWest.com.


Mike Allen is a former EMS pilot and the president of Air Methods, LifeNet’s parent company.

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 February 24, 2017  Posted by at 1:06 am Editorial, Issue #207  Add comments


  1. Lifenet needs to move on. It is over. The county is buying the third helicopter. You should have thought about your outrageous billing when you ruined financial lives.

  2. I don’t get it, some people are upset because LifeNet charged what they feel is “excessive amounts” and when LifeNet came up with a solution you don’t want it. Instead you want the county to spend “excessive amount” which is YOUR MONEY. What LifeNet proposed could actually lower taxes if the county was willing to do so. They will spend in excess of 5 million just to get a second aircraft started and millions per year operating. With LifeNet the county will spend 400,000 now and 400,000 per year. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if the county is spending less for something they are charging you taxes to support they could lower your taxes is they could provide that for 4 million dollars less? Another thing that everyone is getting wrong is the county is not going to be operating 3 aircraft. They are buying another aircraft to REPLACE the older aircraft then operating two.

  3. LifeNet’s current offer might indeed have been the best option, financially. But they poisoned the well with their outrageous billings. What is lowest cost for the county is not always the right choice when individuals suffer greatly. Kind of like insurance–better we all pay more per month, without having to worry about getting socked for $50k+.

    Fltmedic01, I feel for you if you know that LifeNet and you personally could do a better job. Any idea how the previous billing regime started? Is that their practice nationally?

    Another financial issue is that spending our tax dollars locally recycles back into our economy. After sending a chunk to buy the new helo, thereafter our money stays home. Profits sent to out-of-state corporate officers is money lost forever.

    • Sorry it’s taken so long to answer your response, life got it the way!
      I appreciate your position and most importantly I understand it.
      First let me say this. You’re forgetting the fact that the crews for LifeNet live here in the Keys and spend their money here, raise their families here, and buy locally. Then Air Methods pays taxes just like other business plus we buy supplies locally, fuel at the local airports. There’s a lot money Air Methods pumps back into the community. So, you say tax money stays local well… but not always.

      I don’t know how all this high billing started but I’m sure it’s like everything else that’s sky rocketed over the years. I began my career flying in 1991 in Missouri for another air medical company. Then the bill was 15,000 for a flight and when I left in 2011 the bill was now 35,000. And I’ve heard they now they’ve reached 45 to 50 thousand. You ask if this is the industry standard? Well unfortunately it is. I know many people in the Keys feel they’ve been “coughed” by Air Methods but I assure you, they aren’t. Keys residents pay the same amount for a flight that other American communities pay. The solution to this problem is being looked for all over this country by all Helicopter EMS operators. Med Trans, AMGH, PHI, and even the smaller ones are struggling to solve this problem. I think the fact that we here in Monroe County are among the lucky ones where a solution has been found but is being blocked by the BOCC because of the past. They are willing to spend millions of tax payer dollars to punish someone or something. Air Methods is also trying to work with board to solve patient’s past bills. This is a win-win for everybody.
      You say “What is lowest cost for the county is not always the right choice when individuals suffer greatly”. First, If Air Methods is asked to solve the problem and then they do, but it’s rejected based on the past isn’t that wrong? I see this as punishment of past billing and maybe it is. But why spend millions to prove a point. I firmly believe that an individual faced with the deciding what to do with own money would not spend millions to punish someone when they could save themselves million instead. It’s easy to say do this when it’s not your money.

      Yes, they will spend millions starting up and after that you believe the money will be pumped back into the economy. Your forgetting they will be spending 5 to 10 million per year just in operating two aircraft. Since we all agree LifeNet and Trauma Star are equal in quality then why shouldn’t you spend 400,000 per year for exact same service and save millions of tax payers money.

      I’ve heard Air Methods should just do it for free or for $1/year. It against the law for Air Methods to do it since they are publicly traded company. The FTC controls this so as you can see they can’t just offer it for that little.

      Below is a side-beside comparison of LifeNet’s offer and Trauma Star.

      Trauma Star cost to county Lifenet cost to county
      Buying an aircraft 2.5million 0

      Labor Cost Another one million dollars 0

      Cost for maintenance of aircraft
      Excess one million dollars per year 0

      Operating cost i.e insurance, fuel.
      Excess of 500,000 per year 0

      5 million dollars (could be higher) 400,000

      Number of years of contract with county
      Unlimited Unlimited

      I’d like to talk to you further in a more personal setting. I could even put you into contact with someone that could provide you even more details of this offer. We may walk away agreeing to disagree but before millions of tax payer dollars are spent shouldn’t every avenue be looked at?

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