Congress should address surprise bills

Published 9:44 pm Friday, June 28, 2019

To the editor:

It’s encouraging to see the Congressional conversation about protecting patients from surprise medical bills. However, the recent Lower Health Care Costs Act fails to address the practices of insurance companies that lead to patients receiving surprise bills and jeopardizes patient access to emergency health care.

Surprise bills occur as a result of an outdated reimbursement system, where 70 percent of air medical patients covered by Medicare, Medicaid or with no insurance, reimburse only a small portion of the actual costs of care. Further, some private insurers refuse to go in-network with air medical companies or arbitrarily deny coverage after the fact.

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The proposed Lower Health Care Costs Act allows insurers to pay only the “median in-network rate” to all air ambulance providers. Thus, insurance companies could pay even lower rates to air medical companies, while continuing to arbitrarily deny coverage. This would threaten air ambulance operations across the country and gravely affect patients in rural areas with no other means of accessing emergency care. Congress must reject this proposal and address the predatory practices of private insurers when it comes to surprise bills. American lives are more important than insurance company profits.

Carter Johnson

Spokesperson, Save Our Air Medical Resources