In its first week back following the August recess, the House of Representatives voted to approve: the “Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program Authorization Act” (H.R. 6439); the “Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act” (H.R. 1635); the “Ensuring Small Scale LNG Certainty and Access Act” (H.R. 4606) and the “Community Security and Safety Act of 2018” (H.R. 6691).
The House floor schedule for this week includes the “Save American Workers Act of 2017” (H.R. 3798), and potential consideration of a House-Senate compromise version of the “Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019” (H.R. 5895).
Last week, the Senate approved the “Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act of 2018” (H.R. 5385), sending it to the President for his signature. The Senate also passed: the “Know the Lowest Price Act” (S. 2553); the “Fair RATES Act” (S. 186); a bill to “provide protections for certain sports medicine professionals who provide certain medical services in a secondary State” (H.R. 302); and the “Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2018” (S. 994).
The Senate Judiciary Committee held four days of hearings last week on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The Committee is expected to vote on the nomination in the next two weeks, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) planning a floor vote before the Supreme Court convenes for its 2018-2019 term on October 1.
On September 5, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) was sworn in to replace the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Kyl’s appointment is effective through a special election, which will be held on November 3, 2020. Kyl previously represented Arizona in the Senate from 1995 through 2013.
Hearing on Airspace Integration
On September 6, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee held a hearing on “Airspace Integration of New Aircraft”. As described in the Committee’s “Summary of Subject Matter” memorandum, the hearing addressed efforts to integrate new aircraft into the national airspace (NAS).
In opening the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) noted the “the growing use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, to improve many different sectors of our economy, including infrastructure, energy, emergency response, and agriculture.” He posed questions for consideration during the hearing, including:
- “[H]ow will these aircraft physically fit and operate within the three-dimensional airspace and be kept at safe distances from other aircraft, buildings, and people on the ground in urban and other environments?”
- “[H]ow will the new aircraft and systems interoperate with existing ones and also with each other?”
In his opening statement, full committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) asserted that integration of new aircraft must be done safely, emphasizing the role of the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM). He also declared that “we need to be able to regulate the so-called ‘model aircraft’”. He remarked that over one million model aircraft are not regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. DeFazio said that “just last week…we had to ground all the aircraft fighting the Terwilliger Fire” because of a drone flown into the prohibited airspace. He noted that he introduced an amendment that was included in the House-passed FAA reauthorization bill that would better allow for regulation and identification of model aircraft.
AAMS opposes the “Air Ambulance Consumer Protection Act” (S. 2812), which was introduced on May 10, 2018. AAMS also opposes Section 412 of the House-passed “FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018” (H.R. 4). AAMS encourages members to contact their Senators and Members of Congress to ask them to oppose these proposals, as well as any similar amendment to the Senate’s “Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017” (S. 1405).
Both S. 2812 and Section 412 of H.R. 4 would exempt air medical services from the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), allowing states to establish a patchwork of regulatory barriers to transporting patients from the scene of a life-threatening illness or accident to the closest appropriate care facility. It is critical to ensure that interstate air medical flights remain unencumbered by regulatory barriers as over 30% of all air ambulance transports cross state lines. Allowing conflicting state regulations could ultimately result in air medical base closures in the rural areas where they are needed the most. Congress must preserve the current framework of the ADA, which allows air medical providers to deliver life-saving services and make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the patient, rather than on arbitrary state, county, or municipal boundaries.
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 45:
- 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); and
- Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN).
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 these issues, as well as on how to contact your Member of Congress and Senators:
- Save Our Air Medical Resources (SOAR) tool for contacting Congress in opposition to legislation that would eliminate the ADA’s coverage of air medical services.
- AAMS policy paper, “Separating Fact from Fiction: Common Misconceptions” on the ADA and related issues.
- AAMS background on the need to reform outdated Medicare rates.
- Cosponsors of H.R. 3378.
- Cosponsors of S. 2121.
- The House of Representatives tool for identifying your Member of Congress by zip code.
- The U.S. Senate’s contact information for all 100 Senators.