Air ambulance providers anxious as new legislation could take ou

Air ambulance providers anxious as new legislation could take out the industry

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Legislation on the U.S. Senate table could put air medical services out of business.

The Lower Health Care Costs Act targets surprise medical billing, limiting out-of-pocket expenses for air transport. 

"The legislation would be very devastating. It would cause the closure of more bases in an already financially-strained industry," Air Evac Lifeteam CEO Seth Myers said.

In fact, more than 30 air bases have already shut down this year alone.

Without these air medical services, Myers said patients will lose emergency care when they need it the most.

"These services are time-urgent and only have a certain window of time that we can perform these procedures in the medical centers. Without that time-urgent transport, it can mean the difference in a quality future of life or even whether you survive the event," Myers said.

Myers said he supports ending surprise billing for patients, but he blames the high costs on Medicare.

He said the government's low reimbursement rates have forced air ambulance providers to bill more.

Prices for air ambulances have risen 60% since 2012, according to a study of federal data, yet the charges rose as much as 10 times what Medicare pays for it. 

If there is no middle ground reached, Myers said rural communities could be the most at risk, because often times, he said air care is the only emergency care available. 

"Re-basing Medicare and ensuring that insurance companies have in network providers will take the patient out of the middle and will reduce financial strain on the industry to keep it alive. You're also reading and hearing about the rural hospital closures, making the air ambulance even more a needed resource," Myers said.

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