Overview

The House was in recess last week, and will not reconvene until after the November 6th mid-term elections.

On Saturday, the Senate vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavenaugh as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by a 50-48 vote. The Senate reconvened on Tuesday to take up the “Water Resources Development Act of 2018” (S. 3021). The Senate is also expected to act this week on the following nominations: Jeffrey Clark, to be an Assistant Attorney General; Eric Dreiband, to be an Assistant Attorney General; and James N. Stewart, to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense.

On Friday, the President signed the “FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018” (H.R. 302) into law. Section 418 of H.R. 302 will establish an Advisory Committee on Air Ambulance and Patient Billing. The Committee will be organized by the Secretary of Transportation and led by her designee. The Advisory Committee is tasked with identifying “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.” It must issue its report within six months of its first meeting. The legislation directs the Secretary to consider the Committee’s recommendations, and issue “regulations or guidance as necessary”. AAMS fully supports the provision establishing the Advisory Committee. AAMS and its members support any effort to increase transparency and engage stakeholders to ensure patients requiring lifesaving air medical transport are not burdened by a bill that did not expect and cannot afford.

Other provisions of the bill affecting air ambulance services include:

  • Section 314 directs the FAA Administrator to review existing heliport and helipad data, and, if needed, “develop…a new database of heliports and helipads used by helicopters providing air ambulance services.” It also updates and clarifies the FAA air medical data collection requirements established in the 2012 “FAA Modernization and Improvement Act”.
  • Section 315 requires the FAA Administrator to “convene an aviation rulemaking committee to review, and develop findings and recommendations regarding, pilot rest and duty rules under part 135…”
  • Section 317 includes the helicopter Crash Resistant Fuel System requirements included in the House-passed FAA bill.
  • Section 419 amends the existing law governing the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) collection of aviation consumer complaints to clarify its applicability to air medical operations. This section requires air ambulance operators to provide DOT’s consumer complaint hotline telephone number and website, as well as the contact information for the Department’s Aviation Consumer Advocate.
  • Section 420 directs the Secretary of Transportation to report to Congress on its oversight of air ambulance providers within six months of completion of the report by the Advisory Committee on Air Ambulance and Patient Billing.
  • Section 424 establishes a new office of “Aviation Consumer Advocate”. This provision also directs the Secretary of Transportation to “review aviation consumer complaints received that allege a violation of law and, as appropriate, pursue enforcement or corrective actions that would be in the public interest”. This directive applies to “air carriers”, including “air ambulance operators”.

Member Reminder

AAMS fully supports the “Ensuring Access to Air Ambulance Services Act” (H.R. 3378 and S. 2121), bipartisan legislation that would address the shortfall in Medicare reimbursements for air medical services. AAMS encourages members to contact their Senators and Members of Congress to ask them to cosponsor the legislation.

The bills would reform the Medicare fee schedule for air ambulance services, starting with a cost reporting and analysis program conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), followed by: rebasing of air medical reimbursements; and implementation of a Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program. The bill would enhance transparency by establishing cost and quality reporting requirements, as well as solve for a growing gap between Medicare payments and costs.

Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), and Pete Sessions (R-TX) introduced H.R. 3378.

The following Members of Congress have cosponsored the bill since its introduction, bringing the total number of cosponsors to 46:

  • Tom Cole (R-OK);
  • Jason Smith (R-MO);
  • Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO);
  • David Loebsack (D-IA);
  • Mike Kelly (R-PA);
  • Kenny Marchant (R-TX);
  • Terri Sewell (D-AL);
  • Ed Perlmutter (D-CO);
  • Julia Brownley (D-CA);
  • Jacky Rosen (D-NV);
  • Ami Bera (D-CA);
  • Scott Tipton (R-CO);
  • Mike Coffman (R-CO);
  • Luke Messer (R-IN);
  • Filemon Vela (D-TX);
  • Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ);
  • Anna Eshoo (D-CA);
  • Martha McSally (R-AZ);
  • Jared Polis (D-CO);
  • Roger Williams (R-TX);
  • Doug LaMalfa (R-CA);
  • David Young (R-IA);
  • Tom Marino (R-PA);
  • Rodney Davis (R-IL);
  • Tom Reed (R-NY);
  • Elise Stefanik (R-NY);
  • Mark Takano (D-CA);
  • Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX);
  • Dina Titus (D-NV);
  • Diane Black (R-TN);
  • Jim Banks (R-IN);
  • Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ);
  • John Faso (R-NY);
  • Pete Aguilar (D-CA);
  • Steven Palazzo (R-MS);
  • John Garamendi (D-CA);
  • Sam Graves (R-MO);
  • Steve King (R-IA);
  • Ralph Abraham (R-LA);
  • Ruben Kihuen (D-NV);
  • Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN); and
  • Jared Huffman (D-CA).

Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Cory Gardner (R-CO), introduced the Senate version of the bill. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tim Scott (R-SC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), and Doug Jones (D-AL) are also cosponsors.

Additional information on this legislation, as well as on how to contact your Member of Congress and Senators: