Don't get lost

In the sea of paperwork, the new AOPA Medical Services Program is your life raft

December 8, 2009

Your mother might think you’re special, but in the bureaucratic world, you’re just a number. You are one of 450,000 applicants to the FAA each year to apply for or renew their airman medical certificate. And you could be one of 25,000 whose applications get deferred because you did not provide enough information with supporting documentation.

Nearly 80 percent of the delays that occur in the issuance of a medical certificate happen because of this incomplete information, and most pilots are grounded until the information is delivered, processed, and reviewed. And here’s the really ugly number—it can take from 60 to 90 days to get a problem fixed with the FAA. That leaves you grounded when it’s clear and a million, grounded when your FBO puts a new airplane on the line, and grounded when your family reunion is two hours by general aviation and six by car. Not to mention all the fixed costs that keep piling up if you’re an aircraft owner—hangar rent, insurance. It’s not a pretty picture.

Enter AOPA. “AOPA members have access to some of the best information available,” says AOPA President Craig Fuller. “Now we’ve created a Medical Services Program that expands AOPA’s medical offerings and allows members to choose the level of support they need.”

The program was announced at AOPA Aviation Summit in Tampa, Florida, in November. It’s a program that’s been under development for some time. Its main goal is to provide the most comprehensive medical certificate assistance program for pilots, and it has two tiers, allowing members to create the best possible program for their individual needs (it’s not only your mom who thinks you’re special—AOPA does, too).

The programs

Melvin Coggins of South Carolina sent his medical application to the FAA, but it did not get properly scanned when it was initially received. Coggins then entered into a mail exchange in which he and the FAA attempted to get all the information collected…and then he called AOPA. AOPA tracked the case and got everything corrected—Coggins sent the AOPA medical certification staff a case of South Carolina peaches.

The cost of a case of peaches and shipping may vary, but for $37 per year, the Essential Program in the AOPA Medical Services Program provides members with support and consultation from AOPA medical specialists, who will track an application through the process; access to WorldDoc, a robust online health management and information system; access to Microsoft HealthVault, a secure online medical record storage service; a bimonthly, pilot-focused medical newsletter from the AOPA medical certification staff; and a prescription drug discount program (see “Defining the Benefits,” page 82).

Another member’s physician sent in a report on the stress test with a typographical error—the word “no” was omitted—so that the report read, “There was chest pain during peak exercise.” The error wasn’t caught, and it went to the FAA, which denied the medical certificate because of the reported chest pain. AOPA reviewed the records, found the typo, and advised the member to get an amended report from his physician.

The Comprehensive Program of the AOPA Medical Services Program offers all of the benefits of the Essential Program plus a medical records review by the AOPA Medical Certification staff and, if necessary, AOPA intervention on behalf of the member with the FAA Aerospace Medical Certification Division. The cost is just $99 per year. Other aeromedical certification services can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars more.

“Our new Medical Services Program allows AOPA to continue to offer members aeromedical certification assistance that is second to none,” says Fuller. “And it allows members to choose just the services they need.”

For more information, visit the Web site. E-mail the author at julie.walker@aopa.org.

Defining the benefits

WorldDoc Web site—WorldDoc is a leading provider of consumer care management systems. WorldDoc’s Web site enables individuals to become active and informed participants in their health care, enabling them to make better health care decisions, leading to both improved health and decreased health-care costs. WorldDoc includes a pharmacy locator that can identify the pharmacies with the lowest medication prices, which, when coupled with the prescription drug discount, could lead to significant savings.

Microsoft HealthVault—HealthVault is the ultimate in health record portability. AOPA Medical Services Program participants have the option to enter their medical records into the HealthVault secure server, which makes them instantly accessible to medical professionals in the event of an emergency. It also means that if a participant moves, his or her new doctor will have access to all of the information. (Both WorldDoc and HealthVault are HIPAA-compliant.)

AOPA Medical Newsletter—Because staying healthy is critical to a pilot’s ability to maintain a medical certificate, AOPA Medical Services Program participants will receive a bimonthly electronic newsletter that will include advice on healthy living, case studies, updates on changes and proposed changes to medical certification regulations, and other helpful tips.

MedImpact drug discount—MedImpact is one of the largest pharmacy benefits management companies in the country. The AOPA Medical Services Program prescription drug discount card will save participants 15 to 60 percent on the cost of medications at 48,000 pharmacies nationwide. It will be of special value to those whose insurance plans do not include a prescription drug benefit, who may be underinsured, or who may be nearing the maximum limit of their health savings account. The participant’s family can take advantage of the discount, meaning children who have become too old to be covered as a dependent under the participant’s insurance plan or elderly parents can also utilize the savings.