A bill aimed at preventing air ambulances from burdening patients with huge bills is currently on hold, while alternatives are being sought. Legislative leaders and governor’s officials in Montana are meeting with different parties to discuss the issue and come up with a better solution.
Discussion between Officials and Affected Parties
On January 25, several officials – including the state’s budget director and Republican and Democrat representatives – met with a consultant that represents a coalition of air ambulance providers. The officials had previously met with hospital officials and insurance companies regarding the bill.
Senator Gordon Vance, who sponsored the bill, has stated that these meetings are a chance for the three affected parties to work out an agreement between them. If they can’t come up with a solution, however, the senator also stated that he would be going forward with his bill.
Vance’s bill will require insurance companies and air ambulances to negotiate payments for services. This would apply even in cases where the air ambulance provider isn’t within the insurer’s network. And patients will only need to pay deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance.
Huge Bills by Air Ambulances a Common Occurrence
There have been hundreds of cases in which an air ambulance provider overcharges a patient for its services. In some cases, the excessive bill is because insurance companies only pay a certain amount covered under the patient’s insurance. And the patient is left having to pay for the rest. In other cases, insurance companies refuse to pay the bill when the air ambulance provider isn’t within their network.
On January 10 several former air ambulance patients had testified in a public legislature hearing about their experience with exorbitant air ambulance charges. Representatives from insurance companies had opposed to the bill stating that it would only continue to protect the air ambulance providers.