Wyoming floats using Medicaid program to stop massive air ambulance bills

Wyoming officials are seeking a regulatory approach that aims to end high air ambulance bills, according to Kaiser Health News.

The state's approach would involve Medicaid. 

Under the approach, Medicaid would cover medical air transportation in the state and then bill patients’ health plans for the transportation to get reimbursement for the costs, KHN reported. Patients could be on the hook for no more than 2 percent of the person's income or $5,000, whichever is lower.

The approach also addresses access. According to KHN, Wyoming officials seek to strategically locate and decrease the number of air ambulance bases, so access needs are best met. Air ambulance companies would operate the bases at a fixed annual rate.

Wyoming's approach comes as air ambulance rides have proliferated in Wyoming and other states, resulting in high bills for a number of patients and families. States have been limited in how to address the issue because under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, air ambulances are considered air carriers, and states cannot regulate the amount air carriers can charge for rides.

But Wyoming officials are touting their recently proposed plan, estimating that it could lower private insurers' average cost per flight by $14,000. They plan to submit their plan to CMS in September. 

Air ambulance companies oppose the plan. They say they cost shifting to other patients wouldn't be necessary if Medicare and Medicaid covered flight costs, and they warned decreasing the number of air ambulance bases would decrease access and boost response times, according to KHN.

Read the full KHN report here

 

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