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The Evolution of Air Ambulance Companies in the United States


It all started during the Vietnam War when the injured soldiers were frequently taken via air ambulances to the military treatment camps. It was found that the survival chances were greatly improved when medical flights were used. For a good amount of time, the use of medical flights was limited to the military. It was not until the year 1969 that the foundation for private air ambulance companies was laid. A government-funded research in 1969 found that the survival chances of a Californian in a motor vehicle accident was lesser when compared to the survival chances of a soldier injured in Vietnam War.

The Birth of Air Ambulance Companies

The government put into play two air ambulances in the same year. By the year 1972, Denver Hospital put their first air ambulance into service and saw a good demand. About 8 years later, in 1980, there were 32 air ambulances in the United States. By the 1990s, the numbers had gone up to 231 and in 2018, the number stood at 1,461. Several air ambulance companies had come up – both run by private air ambulance companies and hospital-owned ones. Together, they were catering to the needs of roughly 550,000 patients in a year.

Filling the Gaps in the Healthcare Network

It has been noted that over 120 rural hospitals had shut down as early as 2005. The numbers have steadily dropped further from that time. What this means is more patients today need air ambulances. There has also been a contention during this time, where the insurance and air ambulance companies have been in a tug-of-war about the rising bills. While the insurance companies have wanted to bring the air ambulance companies in-network, still, most remain out of it. This has also led to increased financial burden to the patients, owing to ‘balance billing’. A resolution is yet to be found.

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