Tester Stands Up For Consumers, Tackles Increasing Medical Costs

Senator Files Amendments to FAA Bill to Address the Cost of Life-Saving Flights

(U.S. Senate)- Following troubling reports of Montanans nearly losing their homes due to exorbitant air ambulance bills, Senator Jon Tester today introduced bipartisan legislation to stand up for consumers and reduce costly medical bills.

Tester filed amendments to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation that is currently being debated in the Senate. Tester’s first amendment will empower states to decide whether they want to create rules regarding air ambulance rates and services. Under current law, states are prohibited from regulating the prices and services of air ambulances.

“These flights provide life-saving transportation to rural Montanans, and companies shouldn’t be price gouging families who are in crisis. When folks are sick or have sustained life-threatening injuries, it’s completely unacceptable that they return home only to find a catastrophic medical bill in their mailbox,” Tester said. “This amendment could help reduce medical costs and strengthen Montana’s ability to protect consumers.”

Missoula’s Christina Walsh recently owed over $80,000 after an air ambulance transported her daughter.

“My family received an astronomical bill from an air ambulance company and there was no way we could afford to pay it. The cost of these emergency services are through the roof and something needs to be done about it,” said Christina Walsh. “I applaud Senator Tester’s efforts to begin reforming the system, so other Montana families never have to face what we did.”

Over the past ten years, more out-of-state, independent, for-profit air ambulance companies have been operating in Montana. These new operators are not affiliated with a local hospital and often times do not have contracts with insurance companies, which leaves the patient to pay bills that can climb close to $100,000.

Tester also filed an amendment to the FAA reauthorization legislation that will launch a Government Accountability Office investigation to identify the real costs associated with operating an air ambulance and determine why Montanans are increasingly saddled with extremely high medical bills after using these services.

Tester is joined in both efforts by Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.).