Going Direct: BasicMed Is Working, Just Not How We Thought It Would

Earlier this year when the FAA adopted the BasicMed path to FAA medication certification, we were skeptical that this mixed bag approach to what we’d expected to be a “drivers license medical” would do much.

We were wrong. It’s been a real success in its own way.

According to the FAA, more than 15,000 pilots have earned their medical certification since the rule was adopted just a few months back, and the stories we’re hearing from medical examiners point to the kind of outcome that we’d all hoped for from the get-go for pilots facing a challenge getting their medical.

Though I’d wanted to go the BasicMed route in getting my most recent FAA certification, I had to do the Third-Class medical instead, thanks (or no thanks) to my company’s insurance carrier. But I had a chance to chat with my longtime AME, Mark Nugent, about the process, and he was nothing short of enthusiastic about the new certification.

According to Nugent, and other AMEs who are talking about it, BasicMed was tailor made for pilots who have never been denied a medical but who have a condition that requires a special issuance. With BasicMed, many of these pilots, including several who are patients of Nugent’s, can get their certification without having to jump through what can be extensive and expensive hoops the FAA sets up for them before they get their slip of paper.

This is a great deal for those pilots, and we’re all either in their shoes already or one diagnosis away from there. So while BasicMed doesn’t make the medical much easier (if at all), and while it doesn’t eliminate the paperwork the way the Sport Pilot’s true driver’s license medical does, it’s terrific for exactly what it is doing—giving a new lease on life to a lot of pilots who otherwise might be struggling and possibly spending a lot to satisfy the FAA in search of a conventional medical certificate. It is likely that many of the pilots who used BasicMed to get back in the air also could have used an even more relaxed version of medical certification, like Sport Pilot’s, to overcome the FAA medical hurdle.

So we’re spreading the word. If you’ve stepped away from flying because you’re worried about passing that next medical, BasicMed just might be your ticket.

And one more note. If your regular AME is also doing BasicMed exams, that’s worth a look. Because AMEs have seen it all and understand the nature of the medical, a lot of questions that non-FAA qualified physicians might have about all things aviation would be moot for an AME. For those of you who have to or want work with a non-AME medical provider, AOPA has a great guide (for the pilot and their doc, too) that lays it all out in black and white, eliminating a lot of the concern some physicians might have about doing their first flight physical lite.


If you want more commentary on all things aviation, go to our Going Direct blog archive.

33 thoughts on “Going Direct: BasicMed Is Working, Just Not How We Thought It Would

  1. I went BasicMed and it was easy and less painful than my usual 3rd class. I found that I got the best “annual inspection” I’ve ever had and it’s good for four years, with the addition of the required on line course every two years of course. My GP was very easy to work with after I gave him the information from the AOPA website. As a bonus my very very expensive insurance actually convered it as my annnual physical.

  2. Basic Med is a terrific route for all those it has helped and will help. But, let us not forget that we “rank and file” pilots have been left in the lurch, (again and continually) by our representatives in Washington. DC and by the FAA, whose responsibility, among others is to promote General Aviation.
    The FAA should have implemented effective and pragmatic changes long ago. Instead, it took an act of Congress to get something fundamentally good for pilots done. The FAA is but another government bureaucracy with it’s self interest on display, rather than those citizens it was formed to represent.
    Shame on the FAA!!

  3. Basic Med got me back in the cockpit of our T-6 Texan after 12 year hiatus. Basic Med not only supplied me with the means to get back to flying but also the motivation; there was no longer an excuse for why I was not PIC anymore. It has been great to get back in the saddle again and appreciate it all even more now.

  4. I went ahead an got Basic Med. It was a hassle I didn’t need. We need to continue our fight until they give us what we asked for–driver’s license medical. If it works for light sport, what is the difference for planes that are a little faster and larger? Government control is hard to buck. But it can be done if we don’t give up.

  5. Healthy. Leaves me with a 4 year medical even though I see my doc every 6 months. And since it’s a physical insurance covers the cost.

  6. I see my personal physician every year for my physical. I went to her in August 2017 for the physical and Basic Med.
    She knows my medical history so much better than any AME.

    Bravo for AOPA for being behind this bill.

  7. Basic Medical is a complete disappointment! It is faster and less time consuming for me to get a 3rd Class Medical. This should have been the proposed drivers license medical as it is for Sport Pilots.

  8. Having had a triple bypass about four years ago, I’ve asked AOPA what specifically I now need to get the one time required special issuance issued. No answer yet. This article doesn’t get specific and only implies a new and cheaper route to follow. At the moment, unless something has changed, I’m still looking at about $5K of non insurance coverage required medical testing so I can once again fly something complicated and tricky like a C150 instead of my Aeronca Chief. AOPA, still waiting.

  9. My regular doctor I’ve known and seen for many years refused to sign the Basic Med form saying it was “a controversial topic” right now in the medical community.

  10. For me, Basic Med is a paper weight. My PCP and all of his associates have been notified by the legal department of their association to not participate because of liability concerns. This defeats the entire concept of the new legislation.

  11. BasicMed works for me because my regular doctor can do the exam I don’t need to go to a specialist (AME) to have it done.

  12. Because of a history of atrial fibrillation, every year I have had to:
    1. See my GP for a physical, including prescriptions for medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol, and a statement that I’m having no adverse reaction to any of them.
    2. See my cardiologist and get him to order a VERY expensive 24 hr. Holter monitor, as required by the FAA, even though my condition hasn’t changed in over 20 years.
    3. Take the results of both doctors, and the Holter monitor to my AME to sign of on another year (only) renewal of my 3rd class medical.
    Now with Basic Medical, I still see my GP and cardiologist regularly because I choose to, but no longer have the inconvenience and expense of the Holter Monitor, and the added time and expense of the AME.
    Of course, if something changes drastically, such as a heart attack or other disqualifying event, I’ll have to deal with the FAA again until the approve, but then I can go back to using the Basic Medical.

  13. My AME is now my primary provider, previously, one of his partners was my primary healthcare provider.

  14. We had a local AME address our local flying club re: “Third Class vs. BasicMed” several months ago. The AME made it VERY clear they thought “airplanes would be falling out of the sky” because of BasicMed and actually said any non-AME doctor who completed the BasicMed exam for a pilot was either foolish or incompetent as a physician because they couldn’t possibly understand the liability they were exposing themselves to. It became very clear they were attempting to use scare tactics and questionable statistics to protect their own income. I am very glad to know there are MDs out there who can see the bigger picture!

  15. I ve had a new aerotic valve and a pace maker. at Evanston hosp.(transcatheter)This all done without opening the chest.This procedure fairly new ,and according to the FAA they require tests, not required by the doctors the did the procedure. In questioning the doc s I was told they would order but questioned weather the insurance will PAY for what the doc seen redundant or unnecessary.All this and more BULL from the FAA. More expensive tests (unnecessary by doc s) I m 86 at the end of Aug.

  16. I have been flying the last 8 years on a special for quad bypass. I got my last class 3 in Dec 2016. In May of this year I had my annual physical and got my primary to sign off on my basic med (after some hesitance on his part). I am 72 and some of my medical costs were covered by medicare. I intend to have my annual physical MD sign off every year thereby allowing me no less than 3 years peace of mind and thousands of $$$ in costs both to me and the taxpaying public. No more stress tests, cardiograms, holter monitors EKG’s etc. More important is the 10 to 20 hours I will save every year in exam and travel time. Yes, for anyone on a special basic med is a gift from heaven.

  17. Even though I have had no health problems, I quit trying to get even third class medicals because I might be able to fly LSA some day. That didn’t happen and now that I am 82 I can’t find a doctor willing to sign me off even with a clean bill of health. Brave new world. I knew this would not make a perfect world and for some it’s no easier than it ever was.

  18. I used Basic Med for the reasons stated in the article. My physical was more comprehensive than past AME physicals. I don’t fly that often anymore so the AME medical with associated costs imposed by the FAA were not justified in my mind. Two years ago started flying Gliders and did a commercial add on. Being able to fly without the worry of dealing with the FAA medical sure made flying fun again.
    It is nice to be able to speak freely with your doctor without worrying your flying privileges are in jeopardy. After hitting 50, or at any age, you should be able to visit a doctor and have an open conversation. With the FAA medical, every doctor visit has to be reported. I am sure many pilots avoid the doctor because of this fact. There has got to be a better way.

    With all the airspace regulations (I’m in So Cal) and the FAA medical cert hassles, it pretty much made flying just not worth the hassle any longer for several years.

    Although Basic Med is far from what we wanted, it is a good start. It would not have passed without AOPA.

  19. I have run into the same situation as Gordon. Not only will my PCP not participate but my AME will not participate as well. If, as you say, 15,000 pilots have received their BasicMed certifications then it would be in the best interest of AOPA, EAA and the pilot community for AOPA to comprise a list of PCP’s and AME’s that are willing to perform the certifications. You should at least be able to come up with 1,000 PCP’s & AME’s out of the 15,000 purported certifications.

  20. In spite of the obvious fact that the law passed in congress was written by doctors and lawyers, there is a learning curve and old mind set to be overcome. A local AME felt his specialty, anesthesiologist, wasn’t broad enough. He sent me to a GP who then sent me to a DOT truck driver medical mill. The DOT doctor had to be educated regarding sport pilot rules and the liability protection built into the law by doctors who helped write the law.
    After reading and possibly understanding the AOPA informed, he still balked at the liability issue. I was examined and paid $85 for nothing. Ironically, he was sending truck driver’s out the door with the same degree of risk. I almost expected to hear the “If God had intended man to fly, we’d have been born with wings already…” from this doctor. He wanted a statement from my cardiologist on letterhead stating that I was OK to continue flying.
    I found a doctor who is a pilot and was enrolled in BasicMed after a 45 minute examination.

  21. My wife is the pilot in our family. I would think about getting my sport pilot, as we have a 1946 Taylorcraft that would qualify, but do you first have to have a 3rd Class for your first physical before you can just use your drivers license for a renewal? I had a nocturnal seizure 16 years ago, I even got my CDL for semi’s back, but I think it would throw me out of the 3rd Class. If I only need a drivers license for the sport pilot…even the first time…I guess I would think about going for it.

  22. I don’t know who basic med helped, but it is easier for me just to go ahead with a 3rd class medical. Regular doctors don’t want the liability associated with the signoff. I suppose it did help those who were in too poor health to qualify the regular way, but I’m not sure, in the long run, that will help aviation.

  23. My PCP would not participate. I called around to several doctors, including AMEs, and they declined. Finally was referred to an AME who agreed to do the physical for $160. It would be helpful if AOPA would start a blog to help us find willing Doctors.

  24. I brought the AOPA guide to my doctor’s office well ahead of time, and explained the process. My Primary Care Doctor simply refused to do it. He wanted nothing to do with anything related to the FAA or DOT.

    The AME I went to next, for a 3rd Class that I really didn’t want, was pretty straight forward about the fact the Doctor’s malpractice insurance carriers want nothing to do with Basic Med, and in some cases may refuse coverage to them.

    It was explained to me that for an FAA Medical the AME “collects the data” and Oklahoma City makes a determination that you are fit to fly. For a Primary Care Physician it all falls on their shoulders, and thus their insurance carrier.

    I hope that with time the attitude within the medical and insurance communites changes, but as of right now, I have been unable to find a Basic Med doctor.

  25. I completed Basicmed and was getting ready for my bienniel when I was diagnosed with afib. Do I have to do another physical even though the condition is stable with meds?

  26. That’s great, but now EEA and AOPA need to work on removing the ridiculous restrictions on light sport and make it more like the European ultralight category. They maintain the weight limit, and 1 passenger, but there is no speed limit and retractable gear is allowed. Where in the world did the U.S. come up with the arbitrary speed limit of 140 mph? What’s the point of that? Come on EAA and AOPA!

  27. BaseMed is fantastic and for any pilot who has been on an SI or faced increasing tests/letters for a 3rd class this is the way to go. It’s sobering to see how government overreach has grown, A logical next step is to rethink the yearly approach to Annuals as well as the ridiculous aircraft/engine

    costs.

  28. Going basic is easy if you follow the AOPA explanation.
    1. Do not ask a physician if he can give you a basic med aviation physical. Scares them immediately, they will respond it sounds like a DOT commercial drivers physical and he is not certified to do either.

    2. Do ask if they do sports or wellness physical physicals. There immediate response will be why yes.

    3. Next, ask if Dr. will take a look at AOPA’s physician print out. No record keeping requirements. His decision is if he determines you are safe to drive your car, ATV, lawn mower or boat back home you pass.

  29. First fruits, trade journal article. This works.

    I called several, found a DC. Then, I brought the forms, 30 minutes, 10 explaining new law. Left with BMed paper. Later same day, 45 minutes to do AOPA training and quiz. Smooth and straight forward. MD or DO not required.

    ” The BasicMed exam . . . . physician licensed by a state medical board. That language seemed to apply only to medical and osteopathic doctors. However, on July 14, TeamCME received FAA confirmation that DCs are Specialty Physicians when considered as “Chiropractic Physicians” by their state chiropractic licensing board. To be able to participate as a BasicMed provider, the state chiropractic scope of practice must also include the ability to perform the components of the BasicMed exam. ” …

    ” There are at least 31 state boards that allow DCs to use the phrase “chiropractic physician.” They are listed below. Performing physical exam similar to the BasicMed is included in the chiropractic scope of practice in 47 states.”

  30. My Doctor stated that this is between me and the FAA. He would not participate in the program because of liability concerns and possibility of running afoul of the government.

  31. I found that AMEs in my area won’t touch BasicMed. I went to my AME of 25 years and he flat refused because he felt that it was the FAAs job to sign off on the pilots condition, not him, and other AMEs in the area felt the same way. Fortunately, my PCP understood the process much better and performed and signed the physical. It’s a Godsend for me!

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