December 8, 2021

News Service of Florida

Challenge to air ambulance billing law rejected

| 10/13/2021

A federal judge has rejected a challenge to a 2020 state law that limits amounts that air-ambulance services can charge for transporting patients. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Air Methods Corp. and its subsidiary Rocky Mountain Holdings LLC against state Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. Winsor ruled that the companies had not established legal standing, at least in part because the law is not “traceable” to Altmaier. The law said health-insurance policies must provide for “reasonable reimbursement” to air-ambulance services. Also, it banned a practice known as “balance billing,” which in the past allowed air-ambulance services to seek payments from patients for portions of bills not covered by insurers. The challenge contended that the law conflicts with a federal law, the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. It also said the state law requires air-ambulance services to accept a “vague and lower reimbursement rate” from insurers that is not based on billed charges. “(The) ‘reasonable reimbursement’ provision results in lower payments to Air Methods, and the prohibition on ‘balance billing’ acts as a final cap on such payments,” the lawsuit said. In his ruling, Winsor wrote that the companies’ “real issue” is the prohibition on balance billing. “The no-balance billing provision kept Air Methods from recovering that balance from the insured (patient),” Winsor wrote. “This is, to be sure, an injury. But not one redressable here. It remains the case that the commissioner does not enforce this provision.” The Florida Association of Health Plans issued a news release praising the ruling. “Thanks to Florida’s leadership on this issue, balance billing remains prohibited and air ambulance companies can no longer profit off the backs of Floridians going through unimaginable hardship,” Audrey Brown, the association’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

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