President's Position

Flying healthy

December 8, 2009

Craig Fuller

If I ask a room full of pilots what matters to them most, the answers I get are remarkably consistent. Almost all of them come down to the same thing: “I want to be able to keep flying now, and for years to come.”

We’ve spent a lot of time in the past year talking about protecting our freedom to fly, and as a community we’re facing no more serious issue. But as individual pilots, being able to keep flying also means being healthy enough to fly—and to renew our medical certificates.

As a whole, pilots are a remarkably health-conscious group. We have to be. And AOPA has always understood that, offering medical certification advice as well as great tools such as a list of FAA-allowed medications. Another is TurboMedical®, AOPA’s interactive medical application planning tool that allows you to complete a “draft” FAA medical certificate application, and identify potential problems before you get to the medical examiner’s office. And you can securely store your answers for future reference. It’s a great way to save time and avoid a possible interruption of your flying privileges, and it’s free to all AOPA members.

But sometimes we need a little more help or guidance, and we’d all like to save money, and that’s why I am so proud to introduce the AOPA Medical Services Program. With two levels of service and a low annual fee, it can help you with all your aviation medical issues, and even help you and your entire family save money on prescriptions (see “Don’t Get Lost”).

The robust new plan includes a pharmacy discount card that can be used by the entire family to save from 15 to 60 percent off retail prices for your prescription medications at more than 48,000 participating pharmacies nationwide.

Even if you have prescription benefits as part of your health insurance, you may find this discount valuable to help you minimize your out-of-pocket expenses if you are purchasing a prescription drug not covered by your insurance, have reached your maximum insurance benefit, or are looking to reduce drug costs for a parent on Medicare or an adult child who is no longer covered on your insurance.

But the money-saving prescription discount card is just one benefit of the program. You’ll also have access to a tremendous health management Web site, WorldDoc. All the medical content on the site is written by doctors and reviewed by an editorial board made up of physicians. You can use the site to evaluate symptoms and learn more about your medical conditions and how they may affect your decision to fly. You can also use it to compare prescription prices at pharmacies in your area, ensuring you get the best price on the medications you need. Plus the site offers robust assessment tools to help you manage your health.

The AOPA Medical Services Program also allows you to store electronic medical records, giving you access to your health and prescription information anywhere in the world—a great benefit if you ever become ill while traveling. Privacy is of paramount importance when it comes to your records, and your information is protected in compliance with federal HIPAA standards, giving you peace of mind.

As a plan participant, you’ll also have unlimited access to AOPA’s medical services staff to answer your certification questions, and you’ll receive a bimonthly newsletter focusing on wellness issues that matter to pilots, including changes to FAA medical certification policies and procedures that may affect your flying.

Sounds good, but what will it cost? You will probably be surprised by the answer. It is just $37 a year for the essential plan, and that includes all the benefits that I have mentioned so far.

Of course, if you know you’re facing a medical certification challenge, you may want an aviation medical expert to take a more hands-on approach to your case. For you, we’ve created the comprehensive plan, which includes a complete medical records review in addition to the other benefits of the program.

Why a records review? If you’re facing a health issue that you know could disqualify you from renewing your medical, you may need someone to review your application package, identify problems, and help you resolve them—before you apply for a special issuance medical. Experience has shown us that you can increase your chances of being approved for a special issuance, and get that medical certificate much faster, if you submit everything the FAA needs the first time. A medical records review can help ensure that you have a complete package from the start. The comprehensive plan is available for just $99 a year.

Whether you need essential medical protection services or the comprehensive package, I truly believe the AOPA Medical Services Program is a great value, or we simply wouldn’t be offering it. AOPA has been your partner in flying for 70 years, and we take your well-being very seriously. That’s why we’ve designed this program just for pilots, and why I will be among the first to sign up!

AOPA President Craig Fuller is an active pilot who owns a Beechcraft Bonanza A36.