JASPER, Tenn. — City leaders in Jasper have joined the growing list of towns signing up for coverage in the AirMedCare Network, which covers whatever emergency air transport costs insurance doesn't pay.
Membership sales manager Erick Przybylski, who flew on the emergency helicopters as a paramedic for 10 years, said he knows how disheartening the bills for those flights can be.
"I've seen on a firsthand basis the exact effects of people being transported, making a full recovery, heading back home, and now they've got a bill sitting on their kitchen table for tens of thousands of dollars," he said. "The costs of that are only going up."
He said one to two patients are flown per day on average from area counties.
"There are a lot of folks that are actually being transported by these aircraft," he said. "A lot of folks just aren't aware of it."
Jasper paid $9,500 for the site membership that went into effect July 8. It covers all the town's residents for the next year as long as the flight originates in Marion County.
"If you travel outside of Marion County, this municipal site plan is no longer in effect," Przybylski said.
Jasper residents can upgrade to a full membership that will cover emergency flights in AirMedCare's 34-state network, which includes 230 helicopters and includes Erlanger Health System's Life Force helicopters. The upgrade costs $35 a year per household.
"Everyone in the household will be covered," Mayor Paul Evans said.
Officials said any household could sign on for full membership for $65 per year.
"We're growing weekly," Przybyliski said. "So, if you're out on vacation in California with your family and something happens, and you have to be transported by one of our aircraft, you still get zero out-of-pocket expense."
Evans said Jasper residents' frequent trips to places like Chattanooga make getting the full household membership important.
"For that extra $35, you will be covered," he said. "If not, it [the coverage] ends at the Marion County line. Most of us go to Chattanooga several times a week."
Nearby Kimball and Powells Crossroads are plan members, too.
Jasper officials will establish several dates to host multiple membership upgrade sign-up drives in the coming weeks.
Each resident will receive a mailer sometime in September, Przybylski said, but that may arrive too late for some.
"We have a lot of folks that say, 'I'll take it home and think about it,' and then, unfortunately something happens the next month while they're thinking about it, and now they're not covered," he said. "Even though we have the best intentions and we try to work with people, if you don't have the membership, there's nothing we can do."
Full membership applications are available at City Hall and at the Jasper Public Library right now.
"I think it's a good plan, and the residents are going to appreciate it," Evans said.
Contact Ryan Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.