News: MCAS Iwakuni Branch Health Clinic strives for excellence in medevac process
Story by Cpl. Benjamin Pryer
IWAKUNI, Japan - Merriam-Webster dictionary defines medevac as, “emergency evacuation of the sick or wounded.”
Without medevac, it would be near impossible to keep service members mission ready during difficult times, whether it be a personal injury or family emergency.
Given the capabilities of the Robert M. Casey Medical and Dental Health Clinic aboard station, beneficiaries may require the medevac process more often than other stations.
“In this office, we manage and facilitate access to care. If people need appointments for specialties we don’t have in the clinic, we have to outsource them either out in town or to other hospitals,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class David Towsley, a corpsman and medevac clerk with the clinic.
Towsley said that to start the medevac process, a provider will generate an AF 3899 form that has a patient’s basic information. Once created, the medevac office schedules appointments and sends the information to the patient, along with a lodging list the patient may choose from. After the patient returns the lodging choice, the medevac office sends the information to the individual’s comptroller office to have orders generated.
“The patients really don’t have to do anything,” said Towsley. “As long as we get the information, we do everything else. We route it through the providers and keep the patient in the loop.”
Active duty personnel will receive a DD1610 form, which is a basic orders form, via their command and comptroller’s office. Dependents will be processed under their sponsors. All appropriate expenses will be covered by the orders.
While the medevac office can help facilitate retirees, contractors and other personnel, the cost will ultimately come from the individual’s pocket.
“This is a very costly endeavor, especially now, for the units,” said Towsley. “To have it done effectively and efficiently cuts down on the cost for the unit. Instead of sending people for two weeks, if we can manage to fit all of their appointments into one week, that is a week less of per diem. Depending on where they go, that could be a few hundred dollars a day.”
Given the size and capabilities of the clinic, most procedures that would enlist the commodities of a hospital require a medevac procedure.
Towsley said that if someone were to come in with a broken femur, they would get treatment out in town. From there, the medevac office would facilitate their travel back to the United States for further care. Those who don’t have as immediate of a need for treatment, something such as tonsillitis, would instead be sent to Yokosuka.
With most procedures requiring outsourcing, the medevac office maintains a busy tempo.
“We just ask people to be patient with us, we ship out over 500 medevacs per year,” said Towsley. “It’s nice to have people be patient with us and know that we’ll get it done.”
With the cost of doing a medevac falling to the unit of the individual, it is important that beneficiaries utilizing the service understand all facets of the process, to include what they should do before, during and after, as far as travel expenses are concerned.
“It’s important for people to understand the process. Either they won’t claim things that are legitimate expenses, or they’ll rack up a bunch of expenses thinking they’re covered and they’ll come back and be out of luck,” said 2nd Lt. Roger Willis, a finance officer with the station comptroller’s office. “Know what you rate before you go and don’t be afraid to ask questions or call during your trip. People have called in the past, very rarely, but situations have existed.”
Once an individual returns from their travel, it falls to them to take care of their voucher.
Five days after returning to the station, individuals must fill out and submit their travel voucher. Personnel may go to the comptroller’s office for assistance.
Willis mentioned a few key tips to remember in order to make the medevac a smooth process.
“Read your orders, if you have questions, call and ask. The phone number to the comptroller’s office is on the orders,” said Willis.
Willis also suggested keeping all receipts, as travelers must have their lodging receipt to receive reimbursement. Active duty personnel aren’t required to keep food receipts as they will receive per diem, but dependents must keep food receipts.
However, active duty members staying on base with an accessible chow hall will receive $15.20 daily, the current government meal rate.
This story is the first in a multi-part series concerning the clinic. The next story will focus on the ancillary department of the clinic, to include the pharmacy, laboratory and radiology services.