A state district court in Austin, Texas has made the decision to allow the State of Texas to regulate air ambulance fees charged to patients who are covered by workers’ compensation. Air ambulance companies in the U.S. have been receiving backlash for overcharging patients. And this new ruling will prevent air ambulance operators in Texas from overcharging patients who fall under the workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
Conflicting Opinions about Airline Deregulation Act
Air ambulance operators are protected by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which was designed for commercial passenger airlines. The act prevents state governments from having a say in what airlines charge their passengers for transportation fees. But in the case of air ambulance companies, there is huge controversy since patients don’t even receive prior information as to how much the cost of the flight will be.
There have been many cases where an air ambulance operator has billed hundreds of thousands of dollars to its passengers. Many times, the cost would be $40,000 or higher for a few minutes of flight. And in most cases, the insurance companies wouldn’t pay the operators in full, leaving patients to pay for the balance of several thousand dollars.
New Ruling Opens Doors for More Reasonable Charges from Air Ambulance Companies
The case involved PHI Air Medical LLC seeking court orders stating that the Airline Deregulation Act preempts regulations regarding workers’ compensation. But Judge Stephen Yelenosky ruled in favor of Texas Mutual to uphold the state’s guidelines on workers’ compensation.
Although the new ruling applies specifically to patients covered by workers’ compensation, it could be the beginning of other rulings and regulations to prevent overcharging by air ambulance operators. Representatives from Texas Mutual have stated that air ambulance operators charge 500-700% of their actual costs, which leads to overcharging.