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Senate Advances Bill To Limit Huge Air Ambulance Costs To Patients

Senate Advances Bill To Limit Huge Air Ambulance Costs To Patients

— Montana senate panel advances bill addressing high air ambulance costs.

A bill to protect Montanans from extremely high air ambulance bills cleared a Senate committee with unanimous support Friday morning.

The amendment forces air ambulance providers and health plans to settle disputes over cost instead of billing patients directly. Many believe this is a positive step given some air ambulance companies’ willingness to pursue unpaid air medical bills with extreme vigor.

Letting air ambulance companies self-regulate via a fair market system has led to less to than positive results for many Montanans.

The new legislation would prevent patients from receiving huge bills from air ambulance providers that are not in-network with their insurance plans. At a hearing last month, several Montanans testified that they faced up to $60,000 in out-of-pocket costs after loved ones were transported by out-of-network air ambulance services.

A sampling of 19 air ambulance bills received by Montanans and reviewed by the interim committee this year shows the average cost per flight on an out-of-network air ambulance was $53,397.

The committee approved an amendment saying that if a court rules any part of the proposed law is invalid, any dispute over the cost and coverage of air ambulance services would take place between the air ambulance provider and the health plan.

The patient would be held responsible only for co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles.

Other states that have tried to regulate air ambulance costs have been sued (by air ambulance and insurance companies) for violating the federal Airline Deregulation Act, which prohibits states from interfering with airline fares and services.

Courts have ruled the act applies to air ambulance services, as well.

The bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

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About the Author: Troy is an Air Medical Career Expert passionate about a team approach to improving air medical safety from the ground up. Troy is a former Army medic, Army pilot, Coast Guard pilot and EMS pilot. Troy has taught hundreds of wannabe flight medics, flight nurses and EMS pilots the exact steps needed to launch air medical careers.


  1. Marissa Johanson

    Then the state needs to be willing to take on a share of cost.

    • Marissa,

      You make a valid point. It will be interesting to see how the costs are distributed via the new legislation.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      Clear Skies & Tailwinds,

    • Marissa,

      What costs should the state take on?

      The provider’s cost to perform the service is about $7K. It’s hard to justify billed charges of near $60K. Medicare is actually a pretty good payer for these services. The old saw about private health plans paying for uninsured patients does not make any sense at these charges.

      Tell me, why does a major “community-based” provider operating in Montana charge $65,000 for a transport & if the plan calls that same provider and “pre-arranges” the flight, the charges are $13K (20 percent of the charges when the provider does not have to participate in a market)? It sounds very much like the idea is to conduct the business by the element of surprise.

    • Perhaps some of the funding should be allocated from each state’s Federal Highway Funding ?

      One can NOT reasonably expect air medical to absorb the cost as it will, most likely, lead to short cut measures to save $. All that will accomplish is reducing safe practices

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