An air ambulance service in Bozeman announced Friday that it was closing its operations, citing low reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid.

Reach Air Medical Services said in a news release that the decision follows months of consideration by the organization’s leaders.

Vicky Spediacci, air chief operating officer for Global Medical Response, which oversees Reach, said the company “had sincere hopes that we could persist through increasing pressure being placed on the air medical industry.”

“But as we continued to examine the impact of low reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid, we had to make the difficult decision to close our Bozeman base,” she said.

The news release said Medicare covers 50% of the cost of flying someone to a hospital, and, in Montana, Medicaid covers less than that.

It said Congress has shifted costs to non-government insured patients to make up for Medicare and Medicaid patients. The company said that “failed policy” has placed a strain on the emergency medical service systems and is now forcing hospitals and emergency air providers to close operations.

The company’s transition out of the area, it said in the news release, would not impact services provided by American Medical Response, the company’s ambulance provider.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said he’s not worried about the closure, and that search and rescue has numerous helicopters it uses to help people in need.

Brian Sprenger, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport Director, said he wasn’t aware that the air ambulance was leaving. He said 10 years ago the region didn’t have any air ambulances, and now, with Life Flight, Bozeman had two transport services.

“With all the added competition, we often find there’s not enough business for two,” Sprenger said.

In May 2015, Reach Air Medical Services acquired Summit Air Ambulance, which had been operating in Bozeman for three years. Since then, the company has had one helicopter based in Bozeman.

The air ambulance covered Great Falls, Anaconda and Billings and stretched into Yellowstone National Park, Rexburg, Idaho, and Cody, Wyoming, according to the company’s website.

In November 2018, the company closed its base in Helena and said the evolving health care market in the state made it hard to sustain its operations there, the Associated Press reported.

Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.

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