The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Air Ambulance and Patient Billing Advisory Committee (AAPB Advisory Committee) has been appointed and has begun its work. The AAPB Advisory Committee will review options to improve the disclosure of charges and fees for air medical services, better inform consumers of insurance options for such services, and protect consumers from balance billing.
The DOT’s announcement of the appointment of members to the AAPB Advisory Committee can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-formation-and-membership-air-ambulance-and.
The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) is urging a federal advisory panel to propose legislation that would allow states to limit how much air ambulance companies can charge for transporting injured workers. See IAIABC’s letter at http://online.fliphtml5.com/peyan/kugi/.
WorkCompCentral reported that the Texas Department of Insurance’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), in a letter it submitted in December, suggested Congress declares that air ambulance providers are excluded from the definition of “carriers” under the Airline Deregulation Act, “so that a state’s attempt to regulate the air ambulance industry for the protection of its citizens is no longer pre-empted by a law designed to promote commercial air travel competition.” Alternatively, Texas regulators suggested Congress could explicitly state that the ADA doesn’t prohibit state workers’ compensation regulations from defining payment for air ambulance services. DWC’s letter can be viewed at the following link: https://online.fliphtml5.com/peyan/wfhu/#p=1.
WCF President and CEO Ray Pickup, who is a member of the AAPB Advisory Committee, also submitted a letter to the committee. WCF’s letter said that workers’ compensation carriers have a duty to pay for medically necessary services on work-related injuries. But air ambulance operators are generally unwilling to enter network agreements with work comp carriers. And because air ambulance services are time-sensitive, it’s not feasible to negotiate prices in advance, according to the carrier. WCF also noted that while workers’ comp costs are declining across the nation, air ambulance charges represent a glaring exception to the trends of reduced costs and declining workplace injuries. WCF’s letter is available at http://online.fliphtml5.com/peyan/gajs/.
Group healthcare patients continue to be balanced billed by air ambulance companies for amounts that they cannot afford to pay. In at least one instance, in Texas, an air ambulance company threatened to start balance billing injured employees even though balance billing is prohibited by law. That air ambulance company has not followed up on its threat to bill injured employees due to then-Commissioner Ryan Brannan’s response that the air ambulance company would face enforcement actions and fines if they billed an injured employee.
The best solution to this issue that places group healthcare patients and injured workers’ in the middle, would be for Congress to take action to allow state insurance and workers’ compensation regulators to regulate payments made to air ambulance companies.