Playing by the rules shouldn’t lead to punishment

Belgrade News

by U.S. Senator Jon Tester

Imagine being 100 miles from the nearest hospital and your daughter has just been in a terrible accident. She’s lost consciousness and has several broken bones.

You call 911, and the emergency responders dispatch an air ambulance. It’s the fastest way to get your child the emergency medical attention that she desperately needs. In that moment of sheer panic and fear, the last thing on your mind is the cost of that life-saving flight. You just want to make sure your daughter is okay.

Unfortunately, too many air ambulance companies are taking advantage of families in crisis by charging an exorbitant amount of money for this critical medical service. In some cases, air ambulance bills are totaling $100,000. As a result, Montana families are being forced to consider cashing out their savings, selling their homes, or declaring bankruptcy just to pay the bill.

And the crazy thing is that most of these families have health insurance, so they think they are covered. But in reality some of these for-profit, out-of-state companies, which aren’t affiliated with local hospitals, don’t always have contracts with insurance companies. So when that bill comes, families are left with very few options.

To me, it’s clear: too many air ambulance companies are bilking folks and right now there is very little we can do about it.

Folks who purchase health insurance and play by the rules shouldn’t be taken advantage of by out-of-state corporations.

That’s why I have introduced bipartisan legislation with Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota to give states the authority to establish some rules of the road, to protect consumers, and to rein in these outrageous medical costs.

I believe Montana is best suited to tackle this issue. Our state knows how to handle bad actors without punishing the good guys. Because trust me, there are some reputable air ambulance companies who aren’t just looking to make a buck, they are fighting to save lives.

That’s why one-size-fits-all Washington regulation isn’t the answer. Instead, my bill empowers Montana to take the pilot’s chair.

Montana families can’t afford for Congress to sit back and do nothing as medical bills stack up. They need action, and they need it now.

In the coming weeks, I’ll keep working with Senator Hoeven and anyone else who is willing to roll up their sleeves and tackle this critical issue for rural Montana.

Jon Tester is a farmer elected twice to the U.S. Senate. He is from Big Sandy, Mont.