Starting from August 2, 2017 hospitals in North Dakota now have to disclose whether or not a patient’s insurance covers the cost of air ambulance flights. This new legislation came about as a result of constant reports from patients who received sky-high air ambulance bills unexpectedly. This new requirement will ensure that hospitals maintain transparency before transporting patients using air ambulance helicopters.
Increasing Complaints of Sky-High Bills
While the process of transporting patients from one hospital to another seems pretty straightforward, many patients receive fair warning about how much the transportation would cost them. Between 2013 and July 2016, there were 32 complaints to the state Insurance Department from patients who were hit with unexpectedly high air ambulance bills.
In total, the 32 complaints amounted to $1.7 million for the cost of air ambulance flights. On an average, each of these flights cost about $55,000. According to the state Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread, air ambulance helicopters are crucial for saving lives but they have recently been over-utilized even in non-emergency cases.
Legislation to Ease the Cost of Air Ambulance Flights
In addition to requiring hospitals to provide mandatory notice about air ambulance coverage, the legislation will also help control overcharging by air ambulance providers to a significant extent. From January 1, 2018 air ambulance providers that do not have an agreement with major insurance companies in North Dakota will be required to charge only a limited amount for their services.
They will be required to charge only the average amount charged by companies that do have agreements with insurers in the state. This should prevent air ambulance providers from charging exorbitant rates to their patients.
According to Godfread and Senator Judy Lee, who sponsored the bill, this new legislation is a regulation on insurance coverage and not on the services provided by air ambulance providers. So it should withstand any legal challenge.