Free Airfare for Patients Flying to Receive Medical Care
Do you or a loved one need to fly to a medical center to receive treatments? If so, you may be a candidate for free airfare via Miracle Flights. I recently asked Mark E. Brown, the CEO of Miracle Flights, the following questions about their service:
How did Miracle Flights start?
Miracle Flights was founded 33 years ago with the belief that distance should never stand in the way of a cure and that no child should suffer from a diminished quality of life because help is a plane ride away.
In 1985, the organization’s founder, Ann McGee, recognized the unfulfilled need in Southern Nevada communities for coordinated aviation services that could provide critically ill children with the opportunity to get the best medical care available in America, specifically children whose families could not afford the high costs of commercial airline tickets to see specialists and get second opinions far from home.
Miracle Flights grew from only a handful of flights each month for local kids in Southern Nevada to a national effort that flies sick children from all corners of the country. To date, the program has coordinated more than 115,000 flights and provided over 64 million miles of free access to specialized healthcare for children and adults with complex medical needs.
What are the criteria for a child or adult to apply for a Miracle Flight?
Assistance is subject to household income eligibility, with supporting documentation. To ensure that your family qualifies financially to receive assistance from Miracle Flights, please call Miracle Flights at 800-359-1711 and speak with a flight specialist. To provide patients with optimum conditions for comfort and dignity, patients must:
- Be able to board the aircraft and be able to sit upright in the seat or wheelchair.
- Not be on any life support systems. Equipment or oxygen must be approved by the commercial airlines. Portable oxygen concentrator and oxygen must be provided by the patient.
- Be going to or from a recognized treatment center.
- Arrange ground transportation for themselves and family members to and from the airport.
Candidates may be traveling to be a blood or organ donor.
Miracle Flights provides flights for patients under the age of 18, accompanied by one or both parents, and age 18 and over accompanied by one adult caregiver, as long as the medical necessity is documented by the patient’s physician(s). Qualifying applicants may receive assistance as often as needed.
How do families apply for a Miracle Flight, and how long is the application?
The application, available in English and Spanish, is easily downloaded from the Miracle Flights website. The website also features a step-by-step video to guide parents and caregivers through the application process from start to finish. At any point, you may call Miracle Flights for assistance at 800-359-1711. Complete applications must be submitted at least 14 days (10 business days) prior to the requested departure date.
How quickly do families learn if they qualify?
Immediately, after calling to verify financial qualification. Once a complete request is received, the applicant is contacted to complete the flight booking process.
Can Miracle Flights be used for participation in clinical trials?
In most cases yes, as long as an appointment is scheduled at a recognized medical treatment center for treatment by an MD, DO, or PA-C, Miracle Flights will provide travel.
I also spoke to Jon Arenz, the father of Zakk, who is a 13-year old medulloblastoma survivor (congratulations Zakk)! Zakk and his parents live in North Dakota, and when Zakk was diagnosed, they decided that the best decision for their family would be for him to receive pediatric cancer treatment at a Children’s Hospital in Minnesota. The trip was ~6 hours by car, each way, in perfect weather, and they needed to make this trip frequently so that Zakk could get seven rounds of chemotherapy. The same trip by plane was just one hour but cost $400 per person per trip. For Zakk and his parents to make this trip for each chemotherapy visit, it would cost the family more than $8,000. The family was already buried in medical bills, and they could not take on the cost of airfare on top of this. They applied for—and received—assistance from Miracle Flights six times,, which saved them a great deal of time, money, and the stress of long travel times.