With help from U.S. Representative Rick Larsen, a meeting was organized to bring together people representing the state Insurance Commissioner, Kaiser Permanente, the county, healthcare in the county, fire departments, Airlift Northwest and Island Air. The purpose of the gathering on Monday, April 22, 2019 in the county's Legislative Building in Friday Harbor was to share information about the need for airlift medevacs from the islands to the mainland in medical emergencies.
While the meeting was closed to the public including the media, several of the participants spoke with San Juan Islander Editor Sharon Kivisto after the meeting. Representatives from Kaiser Permanente and the Insurance Commissioner's office declined to comment.
County Commissioner Jamie Stephens said, "It was a difficult conversation to have. Glad we had the right people in the room." He noted Larsen's staff has been working very hard with the Insurance Commisioner's office and Kaiser Permanente.
Mark Tompkins, Director of the county Health and Human Services Department said, "It was a robust discussion. We shared information about our medical care system."
"It was very beneficial to have people from the state's Insurance Commissioners office here," said Rick Fraser. He noted the county's health system is complicated. According to Fraser, the OIC (office of the insurance commissioner) has given Kaiser a deadline of May 1 for a report on the facts regarding claims for medevac. He said it will take some time to resolve the problems that islanders have had with Kaiser Insurance rejecting claims for medevac flights.
Fraser stressed the need for islanders to follow their medical provider's advice and not make decisions based on fears about coverage. The medical providers understand the guidelines for when medevac is appropriate.
Anne Presson, Superintendent of both Lopez Island's and Orcas Island's Hospital Districts, said, "I am cautiously optimistic." She noted the importance of having fire chiefs from other islands in attendance since the situation on Lopez and Orcas Islands is very different than San Juan Island.
There will be public meetings held on Lopez and Orcas Islands to update the community in the next month. The dates are to be determined.
On San Juan Island, a community forum to discuss Health Insurance Coverage for Emergency Care and Air Ambulance Transfer in San Juan County will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m Thursday, April 25 at the Mullis Center on Nash Street in Friday Harbor.
The forum was organized by Dr. Loren Johnson and sponsored by San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1.
The topics to be covered include:
Air Ambulance Insurance Denials – Status of the Problem
Know your Right to Obtain Emergency Care Under the Law
Understand when Air-Ambulance transfer is medically necessary
Understand our local health insurance marketplace
Learn the appeal process for challenging insurance denials and utilizing patient advocates
Program Chair Loren Johnson, MD - Emergency Physician
Speakers Michael Sullivan, MD, EMS Medical Policy Director, San Juan County
Warren Appleton, MD – Emergency Physician
Chris Martin, Executive Director, Airlift Northwest
Will Hamilton, Island Air Ambulance