28-Sep-2018 Source: AAMS
Following weeks of negotiations between the leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 302) was passed yesterday by the House and is currently before the Senate.
AAMS fully supports the language included in the FAA Reauthorization bill establishing an Advisory Committee to engage stakeholders on solving the complex issue of balance billing. 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.
Notable provisions within H.R. 302 that are intended to address air medical billing and transparency issues include:
Section 418 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, and will include one representative each from: the Department of Health and Human Services; “each relevant Federal agency, as determined by the Secretary of Transportation”; “State insurance regulators”; “Health insurance providers”; “Patient advocacy groups”; “Consumer advocacy groups”; and a “Physician specializing in emergency trauma, cardiac, or stroke”. 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”: (1) “to require air ambulance providers to regularly report data to the Department of Transportation;”
(2) “to increase transparency related to Department of Transportation actions related to consumer complaints; and”
(3) “to provide other consumer protections for customers of air ambulance providers.”
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.
We will also continue to work on The Ensuring Access to Air Ambulance Services Act (H.R. 3378 and S. 2121), bipartisan efforts to reform Medicare reimbursements for air medical transports that provide a solution to the underlying root cause of balance billing. H.R. 3378 and S. 2121 are the only lasting solution to ensure the sustainability of air medical services, particularly in rural areas of the country where our services are often the single point of access to definitive health care for millions of Americans.
AAMS stands ready to work hand-in-hand with insurers, state and federal legislators, as well as federal transportation authorities to find a clear common-sense solution that provides for transparency and efficiency, does not inhibit air medical access, and most importantly ensures that patients-in-need receive safe, timely, and affordable air medical transport in those rare situations when it is needed.