Senator seeks information from air ambulance providers, insurers over Missouri patients' high bills: 5 things to know

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., sent letters requesting billing information to air ambulance providers and insurers after multiple reports of Missouri families experiencing substantial air ambulance bills after medical emergencies, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

 Here are five things to know:

1. In the letters, dated April 30, Ms. McCaskill asked air ambulance providers and insurance companies to provide information related to the bills. Requested information includes a list of Missouri locations and insurance companies considered in-network from air ambulance companies. The letters also requested documentation from insurers on how patients appeal or challenge a claim and a list of in-network air ambulances, according to the report, which cites letters provided to the Post-Dispatch.

2. Ms. McCaskill sent the letters to nine companies — Aetna, Air Evac Lifeteam, Air Methods, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, Cigna, Humana, LifeFlight and UnitedHealth Group. The senator asked the companies to respond with the requested information by May 21.

3. The senator's probe comes after Post-Dispatch reports revealed at least 10 Missourians have been hit with significant air ambulance bills since 2016, including the family of an 8-year-old boy. The family received a $32,000 bill after the boy was transported by air to a St. Louis hospital following a camping trip injury.

"A recent series of articles by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlighted the costs being passed along to consumers through the practice of balance billing by providers of air ambulance service," Ms. McCaskill wrote in the letters.

4. In nearly each of the billing cases, the air ambulance provider was not in-network under residents' coverage, meaning patients were on the hook for out-of-network expenses, reports the Post-Dispatch.

Ms. McCaskill said in the letters: "This financial burden being placed on insured consumers appears to be driven in large part by the inability or unwillingness of some private health insurance providers and air ambulance providers to agree on terms for reimbursement."

5. In addition to Ms. McCaskill's probe, legislative steps are being taken to address the issue. For instance, Missouri Senate Insurance Committee chairman Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, said he aims to add an amendment to recently passed surprise billing legislation that would also address out-of-network air ambulance issues, according to the Post-Dispatch. The publication states legislation passed April 27 by the U.S. House could potentially mean changes to air ambulance regulations and give states the ability to regulate the prices and medical services related to air ambulance transports.

Read the full Post-Dispatch report here.




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