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Understanding ADA Pre-emption for Medical Air Transport Companies


Airlines Deregulation Act (ADA) has been in the news recently owing to the FAA Reauthorisation Act that seeks to mend it. However, it is important to understand why ADA is held dear by commercial medical air transport industry. It came into effect in 1978 and is a Federal act that prohibits states to intervene in three aspects related to the aviation industry in general, not just medical air transport and they are: 1) Price, 2) Route, and 3) Service.

People have frequently dragged medical air transport companies to court regarding huge bills, but to no avail. It is important to understand the courts’ point of view in this regard.

Why have Courts been Siding Medical Air Transport Providers?

Most of the contentions filed in the courts by consumers have been against “balance billing.” However, the courts have consistently held that allowing the consumers to not pay the balance bills directly affects the prices and, in turn, affects the ability of the medical air transport providers to offer quality services. The courts have, therefore, ruled that such claims are pre-empted by ADA of 1978. The law makers, however, are now seeking to change this through FAA Reauthorisation Act. The act is an attempt to control the price charged by air ambulance companies and taking away the privilege of pre-emption that air ambulance companies have enjoyed thus far.

The Argument Against FAA Reauthorisation Act

While the attempt has been to control the price, the new act will also allow the states to interfere in the routes that medical air transport vehicles choose to take. The commercial air ambulance industry, therefore, is showcasing this aspect. They are propagating the belief that rural US will, as a consequence of the bill, remain inaccessible, since air ambulance providers might not be able to move between regions freely. The supporters of the act, however, contend that this is not true and the access will remain unchanged as it is unlikely that states will prohibit movement of any life-saving services.

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