August 27, 2019

Congressman Neguse Introduces Legislation to Protect Colorado Consumers, Eliminate Surprise Billing in Air Ambulance Services

Neguse introduces 21st bill — most bills introduced by any Colorado lawmaker or freshman member of the 116th Congress 

Washington D.C. — Today, Congressman Joe Neguse announced the introduction of legislation to eliminate surprise billing for air ambulance services, often necessary in emergency medical situations in mountainous or rural areas. Surprise bills currently create large financial burdens to insured individuals who may have thought the care they received would be covered or who were facing emergency situations —such as an air rescue —that left them with no option but to access this care, regardless of its out-of-network status with their insurance company. 

“Increasing transparency in medical billing across the 2nd district is essential as we take steps to improve our healthcare system,” said Congressman Neguse. “Eliminating surprise billing for air ambulance services will ensure that our rural and mountain communities can obtain the emergency care they need without being buried in bills for medical care they may not have agreed to or received unknowingly. No family in our great state should go bankrupt because of the cost of medical care, which is why I’m proud to lead this important legislative effort.” 

On Wednesday, Congressman Neguse will host Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in Colorado for a policy discussion focused on the House of Representative’s efforts to lower the cost of healthcare and provide price transparency and accountability for prescription drugs. 

From 2012 to 2016, the cost of a medical ride in a helicopter or airplane climbed 60%, an average of $39,000 per ride. TheAir Ambulance Affordability Act, from Congressman Neguse, would take patients out of the middle of these disputes and charges associated with required emergency care provided by air ambulance services and ensure that no one with health insurance is receiving surprise bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars after an emergency rescue. 

“At the Colorado Division of Insurance, we hear about shocking charges for air ambulances,” said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway. “In one situation, the ambulance company charged $244,200, which was more than 1100% of what Medicare would have paid for the same service. The insurance company was only responsible for $21,000 of the bill, putting the consumer at risk for the difference. Congressman Neguse’s bill will provide vital consumer protection by taking the consumer out of the middle of a dispute that should be between the air ambulance company and the insurance company.”

“State insurance regulators are counting on Congress to address the high bills air ambulances often charge to consumers,” said Eric Cioppa, NAIC President and Maine Insurance Superintendent. “NAIC applauds Rep. Neguse for stepping up to address this ongoing problem and urges Congress to challenge surprise medical bills.”

Some states, including Colorado and New York, have already passed laws taking patients out of the middle of surprise billing disputes and have created processes through which insurance companies and medical providers can determine the appropriate price for services provided.