Air ambulance reform effort passes U.S. Senate committee

ABC FOX Montana

by Angela Marshall

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Montana’s U.S. Senators on Thursday help pass important legislation to address the growing costs of air ambulance services.

It is important to note that this legislation is not an immediate fix to the issue plaguing many Montana families and forcing them into financial ruin.

However, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) says that it is a “giant” step in the right direction.

The 20-17 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill includes language that would force the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on air ambulances services and payment structures.

The report would include: a comprehensive review of the costs associated with operating air ambulances; the amounts charged to individuals who utilize these services; and whether private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid sufficiently cover the operating costs, among other things.

It’s a process very similar to what some Montana legislators are doing in Helena through the Air Ambulance Working Group.

“We don’t have a lot of information on this quite frankly, and this will give us some information so that we can talk to the air ambulance services and potentially develop some rules around these air ambulances,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). “Imagine yourself, and some of us have been in this situation, where you have a life-threatening emergency. You might not even be the one ordering the ambulance. It might be the hospital. And then you start recovering, and somebody hands you a bill for $100,000 and there’s no way you can get it paid for. And so, this is a real problem, especially in a rural state like Montana.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines are members, passed the legislation in a 29-1 vote.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.