ST. MARYS - Imagine a crisis situation where you or a loved one must be transported via helicopter to a hospital to get urgent care.
The average life flight costs $20,000 to $25,0000 but instead of having to worry about how much to pay out of pocket, some area residents are already covered.
Last month, Pleasants County commissioners approved a proposal by Air Evac Lifeteam to provide coverage for the entire West Virginia county. Air Evac provides medical transportation for several local counties, including Washington.
Air Evac provides memberships per household instead of by person. The average membership is $65 per person.
The coverage area is a 70-mile radius around the base. The nearest Air Evac base is the Air Evac Lifeteam 82, located near the airport at 609 Mulberry Road in Williamstown.
The proposal submitted to the Pleasants County commissioners in November involved a reduced rate.
"(The county) is paying the cost of a membership plan at a reduced cost," said Julie Heavrin, public relations director for the Air Evac Lifeteam.
Commission president Jay Powell said that in the past, Air Evac had approached the commissioners informally about countywide coverage. He said the county then called Air Evac in so they could share a formal proposal. He said the county was fortunate enough to have some extra funds to be able to offer the service.
"Our county paid for every household in Pleasants County," Powell said. "It allows (those in need) to be evacuated by air, free of charge. We're very fortunate to be able to make it available for everyone and be able to give back to the taxpayers of the county."
If the residents need medical helicopter transport in Pleasants, Wood, Ritchie or Tyler counties their fee is covered. They also have the option for $35 a year to get nationwide Air Evac coverage.
Powell added in less than a month, the service has already been used.
"There have been five life flights in less than 30 days," he said. "It confirmed our decision."
Powell added how the service isn't one anyone wants to use, but may have to use.
"Sometimes emergency situations demand that we have to utilize it," he said. "It's a major relief not only to the individual (that needs it) but their family as well. Take the financial out of it and just let people get the care they need."
While Pleasants County has approved this measure for county-wide urgent care, no similar proposals have hit the Washington County Commission table.
Commissioner Tim Irvine said a proposal from Air Evac had been presented but it wasn't county-wide.
"What they proposed was strictly for county employees," he said. "We would sign a contract and they would essentially market their service to our employees. We elected not to do it. Instead of the county marketing the product, we preferred each of the employees deal directly with Air Evac."
"I don't believe (Air Evac) has (formally) approached us before," Irvine said of a county-wide coverage proposal, adding that informally, there may have been some discussion in the past.
Irvine added that the savings seemed to be huge.
"It appears as though there's a large savings involved," he said. "I'm sure there would be a lot of debate as to whether that's something the county should pay for...It's really something (we'd) have to give a lot of thought to."
The cost for Pleasants County was $36,595 a year, providing coverage to about 2,700 households. According to the 2010 census, Washington County has more than 25,500 households.
Irvine added that the commissioners are currently going through a budget process for 2014.
"The money would be a subject of concern," he said, but added, "Certainly, (Evac Air) is welcome to bring anything to the table."
In addition to Pleasants County in November, Tyler County also accepted a proposal for countywide coverage from Air Evac in October.
After having to be life flighted to the OSU medical center, Letita Sprague, 60, of Marietta said the service would be appreciated.
"I think it's a great idea," Sprague said. "I was flown to Ohio State in 2010."
Sprague added that having experienced a life flight, the emergency service was very important.
Another Marietta resident, Dorothy Mossor, 71, thought the idea of not having to pay for a life flight was a good thing.
"It's a good idea if they'd do it for free," Mossor said. "Especially for people who don't have insurance and low income (families). It would be a grand idea."
Heavrin said currently Air Evac had not presented a membership plan to the Washington County commissioners and at this time there was nothing scheduled.
"If Washington County is interested, we would definitely be interested in talking to them about a plan," she said.