AAMS Statement re: the Air Ambulance Consumer Protection Act
The Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) is greatly concerned about the unintended negative consequences that can result from the recent Air Ambulance Consumer Protection Act, reported to be introduced today by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). While it is the position of AAMS that all our members advocate on behalf of their patients and work toward solutions that keep patients out of the middle in negotiations with insurers, this legislation doesn’t do that – it only provides insurers with smaller portions of patient’s bills to cover while erecting “borders in the sky” making it difficult or impossible to transport patients across state lines. We can do better – we can require transparency, fix Medicare, and solve for greater healthcare access.
The Air Ambulance Consumer Protection Act 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 – over 30% of all air ambulance transports currently cross state lines. Doing so could have devastating effects on millions of Americans, and ultimately result in air medical base closures in the very places that they are needed the most – the rural areas. The ADA allows air ambulance 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.
We can protect access to definitive care for the most critically ill and injured patients by supporting the “Ensuring Access to Air Ambulance Services Act of 2017” (S. 2121), introduced last November by Senators Heller (R-NV) and Bennet (D-CO). This legislation would establish mandatory cost and quality reporting requirements on air medical operators, and update the Medicare fee schedule for air medical services. The bill was designed and drafted to provide a long-term solution to the shortfall in Medicare reimbursements which is already leading to base closures and the curtailment of air medical operations across the country. Equally as important, we must fight to hold insurance companies accountable to their beneficiaries by advocating on behalf of patients. Insurers must enter into fair and reasonable in-network agreements with air medical providers, and cease attempts to second guess the physicians or medically-trained first responders that ordered the patient be transported by air.
Your air medical resources are important and must be preserved.