THOSE TERRIBLE THINGS YOU’VE HEARD ABOUT MEDICAL-CERTIFICATION REFORM? NONE OF THEM ARE TRUE.
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