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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Lawmakers Look To Amend Federal Air Ambulance Laws

In an effort to control prices on air ambulance rides in Montana, lawmakers are considering urging Congress to revise the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.
Christopher Ebdon (CC-BY-NC-SA)
Federal aviation laws up for review in the U.S. Senate could change the way states regulate air ambulances.

Federal aviation laws up for review in the U.S. Senate could change the way states regulate air ambulances.

Over the past year, Montana lawmakers have been searching for ways to protect consumers who get slapped with unexpected with air ambulance bills that can run in the tens of thousands of dollars.

But state lawmakers are limited in what actions they can take because of federal laws.

Amendments to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act introduced this week by Republican Senator from North Dakota John Hoeven and Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester try to give states more control of air ambulance regulation.

Tester and Hoeven’s amendments could go to a vote Thursday afternoon. But Tester says the amendments could face some opposition.

“The hold-up is that it is a different way of doing business. Normally this is all regulated from the federal government. The federal government has not taken an interest in air ambulances. It has been well documented in Montana, and in North Dakota, and probably a lot of other states where these bills have come back way, way too high, and somebody who thinks they’re covered aren’t.”

Last month, a federal judge overturned a North Dakota law aiming to regulate elements of the air ambulance services.

Under current law, states cannot regulate air ambulances' rates, routes or services.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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