New bill adds protection for patients using air ambulance

Published: Oct. 3, 2018 at 11:20 PM CDT
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A bill that looks to protect consumers and bring better oversight to the air ambulance industry has passed both chambers in Congress and will now await the signature of President Trump.

Back in May, Senator Claire McCaskill introduced legislation that would bring better transparency and help protect consumers in the air ambulance industry. The legislation known as the Air Ambulance Consumer Protection Act, would in turn allow states to to better regulate medical costs associated with air ambulance services. Wednesday morning, it was announced that key provisions of that legislation were added to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act.

"I would say 18 months to two years there should be a noticeable change," Air Evac President Seth Myers said.

The air ambulance industry has been in the spotlight lately after some people have been hit with bills upwards of $30,000, even after insurance payments.

This bill requires air ambulance operators to let patients know how to complain to the government and establishes a committee to make recommendations on how to help keep large bills in check.

It also creates a plan to help states refer air ambulance complaints to the U.S Department of Transportation.

"We as an industry agreed to this committee and believe they are going to be very helpful," Director of Government Affairs for Air Evac Tim Pickering told KY3.

Myers, says the biggest hurdle has been the unwillingness of insurance companies to agree to fair pricing terms to cover their part of the flights.

"We need to get to those companies and work out reasonable coverage and they need to step up for the people they are covering and taking the money from," Myers exclaimed.

Here in Missouri, Anthem, according to Myers was the only insurance company leaving their customers with high bills.

Myers says leaving those high balances is just not reasonable, so a deal was made with Anthem.

"And now by the way, we do have an agreement with Anthem, who came to the table in a reasonable fashion," Myers said.

He says the company is working in other states to pursue in-network agreements with insurance companies.

"We're trying to take the patient out of the middle of this issue," Myers added.

Myers says the company has been working on Capitol Hill for three years to get a bill that would get a reasonable increase in Medicare funding.

He says that bill along with this new legislation, will bring widespread changes by the end of next year.