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Basicmed: Sep­a­rat­ing fact from fic­tion

If you be­lieve the naysay­ers, Basicmed is an ab­ject fail­ure. Thank­fully, the litany of ob­jec­tions I’ve heard from the chronic com­plain­ers out there since the FAA adopted the med­i­cal-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion re­forms are as color­ful as they are de­void of truth. Here’s what the de­trac­tors would have us be­lieve: • Doc­tors who aren’t avi­a­tion med­i­cal ex­am­in­ers won’t sign the Basicmed form out of fear of li­a­bil­ity ex­po­sure.

• The Basicmed checkup from a per­sonal physi­cian costs more than a third-class med­i­cal exam from an avi­a­tion med­i­cal ex­am­iner.

• Avi­a­tion in­sur­ance com­pa­nies won’t cover pilots who fly un­der Basicmed. • Our pri­vacy rights are be­ing tram­pled upon. • And (prob­a­bly my fa­vorite), I heard my doc­tor has to look at my butt, so for­get it.

I was among the first to gain qual­i­fi­ca­tion un­der Basicmed when the re­forms took ef­fect on May 1. I think my ex­pe­ri­ence will be fairly typ­i­cal of pilots who choose to skip the third-class med­i­cal exam in fa­vor of this new op­tion, which re­quires you to spend a few min­utes fill­ing out a med­i­cal-his­tory form, get a checkup from any state-li­censed doc­tor once ev­ery four years and com­plete an on­line aeromed­i­cal fac­tors course ev­ery two years that takes about 30 min­utes to zip through on AOPA’S web­site.

Any doubts I may have had about whether my doc­tor would sign the Basicmed form faded when I ar­rived for my exam and ex­plained to the nurse what I wanted to ac­com­plish. She took the pa­per­work, smiled and said, “Sure, no prob­lem.” When the doc­tor came into the ex­am­in­ing room I gave him a quick overview of Basicmed — mak­ing sure to em­pha­size the word ba­sic. He ad­mit­ted he was sur­prised he hadn’t heard of it but hap­pily signed the form. I was billed for a reg­u­lar phys­i­cal and paid $20 out of pocket, the cost of my in­sur­ance co-pay. So much for the myth that Basicmed is more ex­pen­sive.

As for the other crit­i­cisms of Basicmed, here are the facts: Avi­a­tion in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have quickly got­ten on board with the new rule, just as they did af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of the Sport Pi­lot li­cense and driver’s li­cense med­i­cals. Basicmed forms, mean­while, aren’t trans­mit­ted to the FAA. You keep them with your log­book and never need to carry them when you fly; the FAA has gained no new right to ac­cess your per­sonal med­i­cal records un­der Basicmed. And as far as the dreaded “butt check,” it might sur­prise you to learn that the third-class med­i­cal exam re­quires it too. If your AME didn’t do it be­fore, he or she won’t start now.

It’s true, Basicmed isn’t for ev­ery­body, but it’s a great op­tion for most pri­vate pilots and a god­send for hold­ers of spe­cial-is­suance med­i­cals, who no longer need worry about be­ing put through the FAA’S med­i­cal-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion wringer. So the next time some­body tries to tell you how hor­ri­ble Basicmed is, ig­nore them and start reap­ing the ben­e­fits of a bet­ter, sim­pler and cheaper way of stay­ing med­i­cally cur­rent.

Stephen Pope / Ed­i­tor-in-chief

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