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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Legislative Committee Promises Action On Air Ambulance Costs

The Montana Capitol
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio
Montana Legislative Committee Promises Action On Air Ambulance Costs

A legislative committee today has agreed to sponsor two bills in the next legislative session related to air ambulance service in Montana.

"I think this is good legislation, because no one likes it (laughs)."

That’s Senator Tom Facey, a Missoula Democrat backing the bills that aim to keep Montanans from getting huge, surprise bills for medical air transport. The problem arises when someone gets a ride in an air ambulance that is not part of their insurance network – something that’s not always easy to figure out, even for the doctors or hospitals that call them.

North Dakota’s recent attempt to regulate air ambulances was rejected by the courts because it conflicts with federal laws on air service. Facey says Congress has failed to respond to state needs, and he hopes Montana’s new bills will motivate them.

"The point needs to be made to Congress that this is an issue."

The bipartisan Economic Affairs Interim Committee agreed unanimously to sponsor the bills. A representative of America’s Health Insurance Plans said the bills would potentially destroy the networks that insurance companies put together to try to help keep health care costs down.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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