AAMS joins multiple general aviation associations in opposing the privatization of the Air Traffic Control System, and provisions to separate air medical billing into aviation and medical categories. Current federal regulation of air medical billing is administered through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
On June 27, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up and approved, by a 32-25 vote, the “21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act” (H.R. 2997). The bill would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for six years, and would privatize the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system. Democrats voted against the bill, in large part due to the privatization provisions. The Senate Commerce Committee approved its “Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017’’ on Thursday, June 29 by voice vote.
While there are numerous provisions in the House bill that AAMS supports, such as provisions to expedite the equipment installation and certification process, AAMS joins multiple general aviation organizations, including HAI, GAMA, NBAA, AOPA, and NATA in opposing the privatization of the ATC.
Issues with ATC Privatization:
- The Airlines support “Privatization” to gain more control over Air Traffic Control – the Board of the corporation would be controlled by airlines.
- Rather than ticket taxes, the ATC would be funded through “user fees” established by the airline controlled Board. Those fees would fall on the general aviation community, including air medical services.
- These user fees would be charged for services provided, such as calling ATC or filing an IFR flight plan – these are safety aspects of our aviation system that should not be subject to additional charges.
- Rural communities, agriculture, general aviation and small businesses would lose the most under “Privatization”; with control over the ATC, airlines would be able to direct funds to projects at large airports that are a priority, such as the Northeast corridor airports (Kennedy, Logan, Dulles) at the expense of small regional airports mostly used by air medical services.
AAMS and HAI also oppose the provision requiring the separation of air medical service billing in separate categories for aviation and “non-aviation” related services. The Provision:
- Mandates a far-reaching, open-ended, burdensome, and duplicative new regulatory regime.
- Would pierce the Airline Deregulation Act’s (ADA) preemption provision, inhibiting the delivery of life saving emergency transportation services across state lines.
- Does not have the benefit of the report and findings of the pending Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on air medical cost, billing, and reimbursement issues supported by AAMS.
- Introduces the concept of separating the charges of an air carrier into what could and could not be regulated by states. The medical services provided in the air are done so in a unique environment and with concerns for aviation and patient safety that only exist in the air. For example, many aircraft are fitted with external oxygen tanks to decrease the risk of cabin fire, thus changing the nature of delivering oxygen to patients. The costs for that service are increased by its use in an airborne environment, and should not be compared to similar services on the ground.
The provision of aviation services must be protected as a whole, and not parsed out between state and federal authorities – if they are, states will choose to regulate those aspects within their authority differently, and create the regulatory “Borders in the Sky” that the ADA was designed to prevent.
AAMS supports the concept of cost and quality transparency, and has advanced this concept in proposed legislation to address both transparency issues and Medicare reform.
AAMS asks its members to join our efforts in opposing both of these proposals.