Doctors talk appeal process

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated the San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 had withdrawn support for the meeting, however, it was the San Juan County Board of Health. The hospital district is still sponsoring the event.

For community members who are concerned their emergency air ambulance flight is denied, Dr. Loren Johnson can help. Johnson is hosting an informational meeting on how to file an appeal with health insurance providers — specifically Kaiser — from 6:30–8 p.m. on April 25 at the Mullis Center.

Kaiser began denying emergency flights from patients in the San Juan Islands in September 2018, according to an Island Air representative. There are two emergency air evacuation providers in the islands: AirLift Northwest and Island Air Ambulance.

Kaiser Permanente is the only insurance available to San Juan County residents unless they receive insurance through an employer or have Medicaid. Jamie Stephens, a county council member, said in a board of health meeting that Kaiser is ultimately overturning its decision and paying for claims after the patient goes through the appeals process.

The meeting, which was originally supported by the San Juan County Board of Health, has since lost the board’s endorsement and is now being sponsored by Johnson, he said. Also speaking at the event is the county’s emergency services medical director Dr. Michael Sullivan; Dr. Warren Appleton; Airlift Northwest Executive Director Chris Martin; and Will Hamilton from Island Air Ambulance.

Johnson and fellow community health care representatives will be presenting the status of air ambulance denials by Kaiser; explaining a patient’s right to obtain emergency care; defining when air ambulance transportation is necessary; sharing local health insurance options; and teaching patients how to appeal denials and how to utilize advocates.