Lawmakers in Montana had a first look at a bill aimed at preventing air ambulance patients from being charged thousands of dollars despite having insurance. According to the terms of Senate Bill 44, health insurers will be required to pay the charges for an out-of-network air ambulance. The bill is facing opposition from insurance companies, who say that it won’t prevent medical flight providers from overcharging.
Emotional Testimonies From air Ambulance Patients
The Montana Legislature on January 10 heard emotional testimonies from air ambulance patients who had been overcharged for an air ambulance simply because it was an out-of-network provider. Megan and Tanner Duncan testified about an air ambulance charge of almost $48,000 for transporting their infant son to a Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
Another woman said that she received an air ambulance bill for nearly $57,000 to transport her husband. And the bill was sent only after he died. Many of the patients who testified had expressed their surprise from receiving such bills because they had believed they were covered for a medical flight by their insurance companies.
No Representatives from Medical Flight Providers
The Senate hearing did not see any testimony from representatives of the air ambulance providers in Montana. One representative from an organization representing these providers did speak out during the hearing and expressed their support of the bill. This could be because it doesn’t affect them and only requires insurers to pay a majority of the air ambulance charges, with patients only needing to pay deductibles and copays.
Insurance companies like Pacific Source Health Plans and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, on the other hand, are opposing the bill. According to them, the bill will allow for-profit providers to charge whatever they want. This means insurers will have to pay exorbitant rates and then increase the premiums for everyone getting insurance from them.