Meet the Member BJ Billingsley
story by Michele Toberer Nineteen-year-old BJ Billingsley has been a member of the Arkansas Cowboys Association for four years, competing as a tie-down roper. BJ […]
story by Kyle Eustice
When 56-year-old Keith Hovey speaks about his job as Vice President of the AirMedCare Network, his voice becomes animated and the passion he has for it can be felt behind every word he utters. Keith, who runs the Membership and Marketing Division, has been working with the company for eight years. A sponsor of the ACA, AirCareMed is an alliance of affiliated air ambulance providers, with membership based services that provides air ambulances to those in need, usually in the more rural areas of the country.
“It’s such a great thing,” said Keith. “Over 2.5 million members believe we are doing it right. Our mantra is to always do the right thing. This membership is the coolest thing in the world.”
Founded in June 1985, the Air Ambulance Membership Program was born in West Plains, Mo. out of necessity. Many rural areas aren’t close to major trauma centers or hospitals. The local fire department had a membership program that was working well for them, so it made sense to start one in the air ambulance medical field. Ground ambulances simply weren’t fast enough and the survival rate was more grim for those experiencing any kind of severe trauma.
“We were literally having people die on the road from West Plains to Springfield, which was 120 miles away,” explained Keith. “A higher level of care was crucial to their survival.”
Helicopters were the only way to speed up the trip, but they were expensive. Finding members to join was the only method that could help afford the machinery they needed. By the end of 1985, they had 5,000 members and were well on their way to making it a viable, long-lasting service. “We still have 800 of those original members,” said Keith.
AirMedCare now boasts more than 250 helicopters and 25 airplanes with a corporate office based in Dallas, Tex. Keith can’t emphasize enough that air ambulances are a critical component to the emergency medical field, one where every second counts.
“We are committed to protecting families in more rural America,” said Keith. “I get testimonials from people all the time that tug at your heartstrings and bring tears to your eyes. Family members often call us and tell us we saved their loved one’s life. It’s a very rewarding job.”
In the rodeo world, injuries are an unfortunate reality that goes along with the territory. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, fractures are the most common severe injury. Concussions constituted 10.6 percent of all injuries; neck injuries and concussion with other head and facial injuries accounted for 28.9 percent, while about 48 percent of injuries were minor. The knee and shoulder were the most commonly injured joints. When serious life or limb-threatening injuries happen, the faster the injured rider receives care, the better.
AirMedCare Network has an affinity relationship with the ACA and have partnered up for the past three years. If a rodeo contestant was injured during a bull riding or saddle bronc riding event and needs immediate emergent care, one of the providers in the AirMedCare Network can pick them up and if they are members, there is no out-of-pocket cost. ACA members also receive a discount on the yearly membership cost.
With access to over 250 aircraft locations, a network spanning 32 states, and the stability and resources of the largest independently owned and operated air ambulance services in the United States, the providers in the AirMedCare Network staff highly skilled nurses, medics and pilots professionally trained for emergency medical situations. Members of the ACA get that extra bit of security knowing they’ll be taken care of if something bad happens.
“One of our sales’ manager’s husband is a bull rider,” said Keith. “It’s a very dangerous sport. We really want to support the cause and be there in case anything happens. We are one of the better things that can happen on the worst day of your life.”
If air ambulance services are needed, most likely it’s a life or death situation. Air ambulances and airplanes are extremely expensive, and many times, insurance isn’t enough. Thankfully, AirMedCare provides financial peace of mind.
“You don’t have to worry about your bill,” said Keith. “It’s taken care of. Flights can cost thousands of dollars, but with AirMedCare Network membership, there’s no out-of-pocket costs for our members. I love it.”
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