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Montana tackles air ambulance expenses


Montana has been one of the most active states in trying to understand and address the high cost of air ambulance services.

The Economic Affairs Interim Committee of the Montana Legislature issued a 73-question survey in 2015 to 13 air ambulance providers licensed in the state covering topics from response times to costs, and whether the companies participate in insurance networks. The survey was conducted amid reports of state residents being forced into bankruptcy or otherwise financially crippled by air ambulance service bills.

The Montana Legislature passed several bills in response to the survey findings.

S.B. 44, signed into law April 25, outlines a process to hold patients harmless from balance billing — the practice of billing patients for charges not paid by insurance — by air ambulances and creates a dispute resolution process for air ambulance providers and insurers to agree to fair market prices determined by an independent reviewer. Fair market prices will take into consideration whether the service was provided in a rural or urban area, what the applicable Medicare payment for the service is, and any fees incurred while operating the aircraft.

S.B. 73, signed into law April 20, updates the state’s insurance code to regulate private air ambulance service membership agreements, removes an exemption from insurance regulation of air ambulances, establishes fees and grants rule-making authority.

S.B. 292, signed into law May 4, restricts an air ambulance company’s ability to submit balance billing information and details of a patient’s incomplete bill payment to credit bureaus.

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