- The Department of Transportation appointed 13 members to a new advisory committee charged with reviewing issues in the air ambulance industry with a special focus on finding ways to protect consumers from surprise billing.
- The newly formed board is made up of professionals and stakeholders representing insurers, physicians, state insurance regulators and air ambulance providers.
- After the committee's first meeting, the group will have 180 days to deliver a report to the DOT secretary and HHS about their recommendations on various issues including surprise billing.
Tucked inside the 2018 bill that reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration is a provision that called for the formation of an advisory committee on air ambulances and other consumer protections.
Faced with stories of families getting stuck with exorbitant surprise air ambulance bills, lawmakers were looking for a way to bring some form of oversight to the industry. That pressure led to the formation of the Air Ambulance and Patient Billing Advisory Committee.
The committee is tasked with reviewing and making recommendations to DOT and HHS to improve issues related to surprise billing, transparency around charges and fees, and insurance coverage.
Those selected for the committee include Michael Abernethy, a physician from the University of Wisconsin; Jon Godfread, North Dakota's insurance commissioner; John Haben, an executive with UnitedHealth; and Christopher Myers, an executive with Air Methods.
Surprise billing around air ambulances is a tricky topic. State officials have their hands tied when it comes to regulating air ambulances, particularly when it comes to prices or routes. That's because air ambulance are defined under federal law as air carriers, and states are explicitly banned from regulating the price or routes of air carriers.
But surprise billing is an issue that extends beyond air ambulances. Various proposals to address surprise hospital bills have garnered bipartisan support in Congress, although industry players are pushing back against several proposed solutions.