President Trump Expected to Enact Legislation Addressing Air-Ambulance Regulation
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 93-6 to pass H.R. 302, the FAA Reauthorization Act, which provides a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and takes steps to provide consumer protections against surprise air ambulance billing. NAHU has sought greater oversight of air ambulance providers as a means to curb balance billing for patients and will continue to work with Congress on increasing consumer protections and providing states with greater regulatory ability over these services. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation into law in the coming days.
Under current law, air ambulance companies are treated as an air carrier and are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. This prevents states from being able to regulate these companies and thus many providers have not participated in insurer networks. This has ultimately led to uncapped prices and patients being charged the balance of bills that their insurance carrier won’t cover.
The final legislation establishes a council of industry representatives to oversee air ambulances. This council would be led by the Department of Transportation and consist of air ambulance providers and insurance carrier representatives with the goal of writing and re-evaluating consumer protections, including balance billing practices. As Congress establishes this council of stakeholders, NAHU will pursue a space on this council to represent consumers and share the perspectives of those that have fallen victim to surprise air ambulance billing as well as how any new policies could affect consumers, employers, and carriers. A complaint hotline for patients would also be established by the legislation. The advocate responsible for handling complaints could pursue corrective action against unfair practices. H.R. 302 highlights that Congress is aware of the surprise air ambulance billing issue and it could serve as a stepping stone for further consumer protections in the future.