A bill before the U.S. Senate could prove devastating for Montana’s air ambulance companies.

Program Director for Reach Air Medical in Bozeman, Clayton Scotson provides details about the Lower Health Care Costs Act.

“While the bulk of the act is great and addresses much needed change in the healthcare community, there is one section of the act that stands to dramatically undermine air ambulance operations, not just in Montana, but throughout the country,” said Scotson. Section 105 of the bill allows insurance companies to set the rate that air ambulances will be paid for providing transports.”

Scotson said a second part of Section 105 would further cripple the air ambulance industry.

“In addition to insurance companies setting the rate, the act would mandate participation by air ambulance providers,” he said. “That means we would have to accept that mandated rate, and the concern is that rate would be far lower than our operating costs. If that passes, we could not afford to remain in operation, and air ambulance services would close, not just in Montana, but all over the country.”

Scotson said he has reached out to Senator Jon Tester and has received word yesterday that a lot of interest and some legitimate concern about the unintended consequences of the bill.

“The intent is to reduce the high cost of air medical transport to the patient, but the result is that it undermines the ability of those services to even operate,” he said. “Air ambulance services are staffed with a very experienced pilot, a highly trained flight paramedic, and a trauma nurse. Maintaining that staff and the aircraft for 24/7 availability is large, regardless of the amount of flying and the number of transports in a given time period. That means the reimbursement per flight has to be enough to maintain that operation.”

Scotson asks Montanans to contact their congressional delegation and ask them to intervene and remove or revise section 105 of the Lower Health Care Costs Act, so that air ambulance services can continue in Montana.

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