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  1. #1
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    Calstar, Enloe, Care-Flight, Reach memberships

    I'm not sure how many people are aware of these memberships so I wanted to mention them here. If you engage in any activities which has the potential to send you to the hospital by helicopter (life flight), you should strongly consider becoming a member of these organizations.

    How it works: If you have an accident where you require life flight, the charges for that flight typically start around $25k. This may or may not be covered by your insurance. If you are a member of the organization that provided the flight, they will waive any out of pocket expenses that you would incur. That means if you have no insurance coverage for the flight, it is free to you. If your insurance covers only a portion, the left over out of pocket portion will be waived.

    Memberships are between $50-$75 a year for individuals. There are 4 primary providers which cover the northern California area, though there is reciprocity between some of them. I find I need to sign up for two organizations to cover all the areas I typically travel to. Family memberships are also available for slightly more. For so little money per year, it's worth covering your whole family.

    Fine Print: THIS IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR INSURANCE

    Please read the fine print on each organizations membership page. Details change year to year and I may not be up to date on everything.

    There is also a possibility that the helicopter that picks you up is not from the organization you are signed up for. You get no choice on what is dispatched to an accident. CHP or Sheriff's helicopters are sometimes used and you would still be responsible for the full cost of those flights.

    There are 4 primary providers in the northern California area: Calstar, Enloe, Careflight, and Reach. There is reciprocity between Calstar, Enloe and Careflight so you only need to sign up for one of those to get all three. I'm a member of Reach and Calstar and have been for years due the motorcycle track days I do and the risk of major injury in that activity. A MTB, ski, climbing, etc.. accident could turn ugly and I recommend anyone who does a lot of outdoor activities sign up. Heck, even a car crash could send you to the hospital by air.

    I recommend you review their coverage maps and decide which is best for you. Just Calstar and Reach will cover you with all four organizations.

    Here are the links to each of their sites. Feel free to ask any questions and I will do my best to answer. I have no affiliation with any of these groups.

    Calstar
    Enloe
    Care-Flight
    Reach
    Last edited by Fleezus; 06-19-2014 at 12:15 PM.

  2. #2
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    Very good post. I remember hearing about this when I went to school in Chico (for Enloe) but I never thought about our local air ambulances.

  3. #3
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    I know someone who had a Calstar life flight membership and then was picked up by a CHP heli.

    Still got the bill, so like you said, you can't be sure who is coming to get you. Makes it almost a gamble.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by redmr2_man View Post
    I know someone who had a Calstar life flight membership and then was picked up by a CHP heli.

    Still got the bill, so like you said, you can't be sure who is coming to get you. Makes it almost a gamble.
    True, but the CHP I've talked to say that they prefer to send the ambulance heli's whenever possible since they are better suited for providing medical care on the way. It may be a gamble, but at $50 a year it's a very cheap gamble.

  5. #5
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    Cool thread, I'm a member of Care Flight. As a firefighter who frequently utilizes CHP and local Med rescue Helicopters for various operations here's a few clarifications (I do not speak for any agency, just some personal understanding here, you'll have to read the fine print before joining):

    CHP rescues are normally free. I'm not aware that they can ever charge. Medical Helicopters generally do not have hoist ability so they need to land. They typically have a higher level of medical care and are optimized for transport. CHP can hoist so they can extract from impossible to land locations. Typically, they would pick one of us up and lower us to the patient in the backcountry, and we would package the patient and send back up by hoist. CHP would transfer the patient to the nearest LZ where a medical helicopter such as Care Flight or a ground ambulance would take over and transport to the hospital. Occasionally CHP may transport directly. Medical helicopters are usually operational 24/7 weather dependent, while CHP is normally daylight only and weather dependent for rescues. We have used as many as 4 helicopters for one accident with multiple victims.

    At least with Care Flight, your $55 annual membership covers the entire family. The reciprocal agreements even extend out of state. Response times are usually amazing. The membership pays for your deductible but if you have no insurance at all, it will pay 20% of the cost. Again, read the fine print. I should add that Care Flight is a great sponsor of the Downieville Classic Mountain Bike Race. Good people!!!

    CHP coming to pick Ronski up, you can see the hoist arm above the door
    Life flight memberships-chp-landing.jpg

    Care Flight arriving at Empire LZ, Downieville
    Life flight memberships-care-flight.jpg

  6. #6
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    ^ This is really cool info! Thanks Ronski!

  7. #7
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    Bumping this thread due to the recent incident near Foresthill.

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    Thanks! Very useful.

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    Forgot about PHI.

  10. #10
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    Just remember. no membership and the minimum bill to you is going to be around $18,000 if your health insurance doesn't cover it. With membership no out of pocket costs
    Warning: Consumption of alcohol may make you think the person on the barstool next to you is attractive

  11. #11
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    Check your insurance before signing up. I have a standard ppo and checked with our agent a few years ago to confirm it would be covered. Had to use it last summer and sure enough blue shield covered the heli evac 100% after deductible

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronski View Post
    The membership pays for your deductible but if you have no insurance at all, it will pay 20% of the cost. Again, read the fine print.
    Quote Originally Posted by lummie View Post
    100% after deductible

    this is important to note

  13. #13
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    Great thread, and missed it the first time around.

    I've carried it for several years. Thru CalStar, it's I believe $40.00 for a year the family. It's a really, really good idea if you say... ride a mountain bike in somewhat remote areas.

    For the naysayers out there: if you've got an insurance plan, and if that plan covers air ambulance cost- you're going to be about 25K out of pocket after your insurance pays off.

    And remember OP: "Life Flight" in the Bay Area is Stanford Life Flight. A competing company !
    And don't do the burrito jump... Francois

  14. #14
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    25k? Did you mean to put a decimal point in there?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronski View Post
    25k? Did you mean to put a decimal point in there?
    Negative. As several on this forum have learned, after your insurance pays you can expect to be out of pocket for $15K-$30K depending on the distance flown for the recovery.
    And don't do the burrito jump... Francois

  16. #16
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    I've had friends get a heli lift--and read lots of reports--and I've never heard of anybody getting charged. I always heard that if you were on a legal trail and it was just an accident, you were not liable. Am I missing something?!

    (no need for douchie replies)

    VV That's what I thought. Thanks!
    Why?

    Because we like the taste of freedom; because we like the smell of danger. ~ E. Abbey

  17. #17
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    Cmdrpiffle: 25k will get you a flight from Downieville to Reno or Tahoe and leave enough left over to buy some cool bike parts. That's without insurance. Who's deductible was 25k? If your insurance only covers some nominal amount for air rescue, the flight memberships we are talking about here won't cover the rest.

    Dirtvert: government agency helicopters like CHP won't charge, but primary responsibility for medical transport falls to private medical rescue services. They will charge you. Read the rest of the thread for more info.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtvert View Post
    I've had friends get a heli lift--and read lots of reports--and I've never heard of anybody getting charged. I always heard that if you were on a legal trail and it was just an accident, you were not liable. Am I missing something?!
    Sure, same as driving a car on a "legal road". If you get into an accident and an ambulance has to haul you away, magical fairies come out and pay the cost automatically, because it was an accident.
    And don't do the burrito jump... Francois

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronski View Post
    Cmdrpiffle: 25k will get you a flight from Downieville to Reno or Tahoe and leave enough left over to buy some cool bike parts. That's without insurance. Who's deductible was 25k? If your insurance only covers some nominal amount for air rescue, the flight memberships we are talking about here won't cover the rest.

    Dirtvert: government agency helicopters like CHP won't charge, but primary responsibility for medical transport falls to private medical rescue services. They will charge you.
    Really, 25K will get you a CalStar air ambulance, with licensed MedEvac pilot, onboard paramedic and flight nurse, and critical care telemetry to the receiving hospital, with $$ left over for bike bling, from Downieville to Tahoe, for 25K?

    Wanna bet?
    And don't do the burrito jump... Francois

  20. #20
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    +\- a few thousand. Call it 30k depending on responding agency if you want. Most services will have a MICN and a Paramedic. CHP typically a Paramedic only. Not sure how you get a 25k deductible unless your pretty remote. Who had this deductible?

  21. #21
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    The nominal CalStar annual membership well worth the piece of mind IMHO...Coverage includes all immediate family members (I.e. Wife, kids), and recipricates with other medical flight providers in Western U.S.

    Suggest all look into, as the $15-20k referred to real...Several friends air-lifted after riding waddage and the big bill added $ insult to injuries...

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronski View Post
    +\- a few thousand. Call it 30k depending on responding agency if you want. Most services will have a MICN and a Paramedic. CHP typically a Paramedic only. Not sure how you get a 25k deductible unless your pretty remote. Who had this deductible?
    It's not a deductible. It's a cost. I for example have a provision in my health care for air ambulance flights. It's a good one too. It will cover up to $8000.00 for the air ambulance ride. Some don't cover that much. One guy I ride with said his insurance covers 30% of the cost of the air ambulance ride.
    If I crack up my body at say Soquel Demo, and the Hollister based CalStar hauls my dumb butt out, to say.... San Jose. I could expect a bill for at least 20K after my insurance pays.

    The separate air ambulance insurance referred to in this thread is there to cover 100% of this additional cost, or 100% of all of it if you don't have any insurance otherwise.

    This is what I use:

    Membership | Affordable Coverage for Air Medical Services | CALSTAR
    And don't do the burrito jump... Francois

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by rndmrdr View Post
    this is important to note
    I'm only speaking for the medical insurance that I have and realize that all plans aren't the same.

    I checked with my insurance agent several years ago to find out if heli-evacs would be covered and, in my plan, they are. As for the deductible and out of pocket maximum, if you are being flown to a hospital it's safe to assume you are hitting those limits regardless of the helicopter bill, unless you are being flown in for a headache.

    Unfortunately I had the chance to use it this summer with my son. After my out of pocket max was met the life flight bill was paid in full by Blue Shield. I saw the total and it was close to 35k, I paid nothing as we had already met our maximums from the hospital bill.

    All that being said, if $40 a year gives you peace of mind it's probably worth it.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmdrpiffle View Post
    It's not a deductible. It's a cost. I for example have a provision in my health care for air ambulance flights. It's a good one too. It will cover up to $8000.00 for the air ambulance ride. Some don't cover that much. One guy I ride with said his insurance covers 30% of the cost of the air ambulance ride.
    If I crack up my body at say Soquel Demo, and the Hollister based CalStar hauls my dumb butt out, to say.... San Jose. I could expect a bill for at least 20K after my insurance pays.

    The separate air ambulance insurance referred to in this thread is there to cover 100% of this additional cost, or 100% of all of it if you don't have any insurance otherwise.

    This is what I use:

    Membership | Affordable Coverage for Air Medical Services | CALSTAR
    OK, couple things. First, yes I do wanna bet that you can get heli rescued from Downieville to Truckee or Reno for $25k or less. I've loaded dozens of patients onto rescue helicopters, have flown with Medical Rescue units all over Lakes Basin and Downieville, run the air rescue LZ and med station at the Downiville Classic and have been on the CHP rescue hoist multiple times as well as flying with CHP all over Plumas and Sierra County or worked with them from the ground during SAR operations.

    Second, be careful with thinking that Air Rescue membership will pay for all costs if you have no regular insurance coverage. Read your contract, you'll find that some major reciprocal partners/operators will only provide coverage to the 20% level if you have no insurance under your medical plan even if your primary air rescue coverage is with an air operator who is willing to provide full coverage in such cases. I know you have moderate coverage, but reading your post provides incorrect information to others who have none.

    That said, I think we agree that buying into coverage is a great idea and is very cheap. Rescue coverage isn't just for bike wrecks. It counts too during auto wrecks, rural medical emergencies and so on. I've been a member for years.

    Cheers

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronski View Post
    OK, couple things. First, yes I do wanna bet that you can get heli rescued from Downieville to Truckee or Reno for $25k or less. I've loaded dozens of patients onto rescue helicopters, have flown with Medical Rescue units all over Lakes Basin and Downieville, run the air rescue LZ and med station at the Downiville Classic and have been on the CHP rescue hoist multiple times as well as flying with CHP all over Plumas and Sierra County or worked with them from the ground during SAR operations.

    Second, be careful with thinking that Air Rescue membership will pay for all costs if you have no regular insurance coverage. Read your contract, you'll find that some major reciprocal partners/operators will only provide coverage to the 20% level if you have no insurance under your medical plan even if your primary air rescue coverage is with an air operator who is willing to provide full coverage in such cases. I know you have moderate coverage, but reading your post provides incorrect information to others who have none.

    That said, I think we agree that buying into coverage is a great idea and is very cheap. Rescue coverage isn't just for bike wrecks. It counts too during auto wrecks, rural medical emergencies and so on. I've been a member for years.

    Cheers
    Cool, and fair enough. Maybe it would be less than 25K. My experience is as an EMD, dispatching primarily CalStar and Stanford Life flight for Santa Cruz County.
    As a turbine pilot myself, I'm well aware of the cost of operating twin jet helicopters from point A to B. I also cognizant of the fact that billed costs for emergency services are nowhere near or accurate of operating costs for ambulances, fixed wing, or rotorcraft.
    The old adage of "I was billed a thousand dollars for the ambulance ride from my house to the hospital next door" is not entirely inaccurate.
    Your mileage may vary, so to speak, but the final amount billed can and will be excessive. I'm being nice here!

    Great point about not having any insurance, and the liabilities for air ambulance coverage that may stem from that. I honestly didn't consider that, and will edit my previous response.

    As I am also certified for landing zone/area ATC, and have also brought in more than a few medivacs into Santa Cruz County, we should probably talk, as we've probably met at some point!

    Cheers back to you, great discussion, and you're right, it's DUM not to have the ancillary coverage. My brain hurts as I was looking up fuel burns for BK-117's on a cost per hour basis. I realized I was missing the point!

    Mike in Santa Cruz
    And don't do the burrito jump... Francois

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