Air ambulance billing tactics 'extremely aggressive,' Missouri agency says

Missourians could have been balance-billed up to $12.4 million, or nearly $20,000 per person on average, for air ambulance services in 2017, according to a state report.

The analysis, from the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration, examined health insurance data from payers in Missouri. In 2017 alone, the data revealed insurers were billed $25.7 million for air ambulance transport.

The report also found a lack of participation in health insurance networks among air ambulance providers. Based on data provided by Missouri insurers and publicly available Medicare reimbursement data, the department determined that in 2017, private plans were billed $41,321 on average for transports, and health insurers paid an average of $23,087. That's compared to Medicare rates that run between $3,368 and $6,404.

"With air ambulance bills, Missourians are subjected to extremely aggressive collection efforts, at a time when they are quite vulnerable as they are already recovering from a medical emergency," Director Chlora Lindley-Myers said in a news release. "We hope this report illustrates to state and federal policymakers the scope and seriousness of this problem and the need for urgent action."

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