Mercy Flight Charity Care Program

Going Above and Beyond During a Time of Great Need

January 2017

 A sudden accident or illness that requires the services of Mercy Flight can have life and death implications.  During the critical moments that follow, patients receive the best possible care in the hands of Mercy Flight's emergency medical personnel.  But that mission of compassion does not end when they part ways at the patient's destination facility, it continues throughout all aspects of Mercy Flight's organization.

When it comes to a medical emergency, unfortunately, the physical symptoms aren't the only effects that can take a serious toll on patients.  The costs associated with lifesaving medical services and trauma care can become quite expensive.  The additional stress created by mounting medical bills can prohibit a patient's healing process, and there are often very few ways for patients to address this issue.  Recognizing this need, Mercy Flight established its Charity Care Program.

"We realized that we needed to have a fair and consistent way to evaluate these situations and come to resolutions that work for our patients with limited resources," Scott Wooton, CPA, Mercy Flight's Vice President of Finance, explains. "This financial stress is secondary to the physical rehabilitation and mental recovery that are often necessary after a significant trauma or illness.  We are more than willing to attempt to relieve some of this burden in a fair and facilitating manner." 

This kind of compassion has been a part of Mercy Flight since its inception in 1981.  With the mission to perform lifesaving services without regard to patients' insurance status or ability to pay, the Mercy Flight Charity Care Program represents the vision of a company whose stakeholders are its patients and not those that stand to benefit financially. 


It's a way of thinking that is ingrained in Mercy Flight and the staff that keep the organization going.  This includes Mercy EMS, the nonprofit ground ambulance division of Mercy Flight that serves Genesee County, the Village of Springville, and the Towns of Concord and Niagara

Jenn Drake, Staff Accountant, adds, "By not focusing on profit, and instead focusing on the needs and well-being of our community, we are able to naturally align the goals of the finance department with the true mission of our operation."

This way of thinking is evident in the actions of the compassionate individuals within Mercy Flight and the financial support it provides to its patients with limited resources.  Many of the Charity Care applications Mercy Flight reviews come from patients that are facing multiple, significant medical bills from hospitals and other care providers.  With that in mind, the application and analysis process is kept quite simple.

Mercy Flight requests basic, verifiable household and income data, but encourages applicants to explain as much of their situation as they are comfortable sharing so Mercy Flight can best assess how to help them.  Once Charity Care assistance has been granted, Mercy Flight will work with the patient to set up a comfortable, interest-free payment plan that works within their financial means.

Scott mentions that last year alone, un-insured and under-insured applicants with limited financial means received reductions of more than $130,000 in their balances owed through the Charity Care Program.  Mercy Flight is able to provide some level of assistance to virtually all of the program's applicants.

While compassion drives Mercy Flight and the staff within the organization, the reality is that as a nonprofit, it needs significant financial support to continue benefitting the local community in this way.  Scott acknowledges that the amount of revenue written off each year due to bad debt and doubtful accounts is significantly greater than the $130,000 in financial relief provided by the Charity Care Program.  

Last year, in their air ambulance operation alone, Mercy Flight was forced to write off a grand total of more than $1.6 million in uncollectible accounts, or about $1,420 per air ambulance mission.  Mercy Flight's "Sponsor A Mission" program was developed to help defray these unreimbursed costs.  This giving opportunity allows organizations and donors to become symbolic sponsors of actual air ambulance missions, receiving a commemorative plaque and some basic information regarding the mission they sponsored. 

Jenn adds, "We are truly honored to be able to let families enjoy the presence of their loved ones without feeling burdened by the costs to do so.  To be able to make such a difference in the lives of so many, and to do it in part via the support of our generous donors, is a uniquely humbling experience."

The Charity Care Program reveals Mercy Flight's life-changing support on two fronts.  Thirty-five years of dedicated service have created a strong, mutual relationship between Mercy Flight and the Western New York Community. 

Mercy Flight has been a Beacon of Hope for tens of thousands in the area, and tens of thousands have answered, including many past patients, offering their time, expertise and financial support to help sustain Mercy Flight's mission.  In fact, many recipients of the Charity Care Program's financial assistance later become donors to the organization.  

Scott concludes, "Our Charity Care Program is just one of the ways that we return goodwill to the Western New York Community that has supported us so steadfastly for 35 years.  We're blessed to live and operate here in Western New York and Northwest Pennsylvania, where residents are so warm-hearted and care so deeply for their neighbors."

Want to learn more about how you or your organization can Sponsor a Mission, or other ways you can help?  Click here!