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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Lawmakers Take On Air Ambulance Costs

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)
Montana Lawmakers Look To Rein-In Air Ambulance Bills

On Wednesday, the first in a package of bills trying to address the high cost of air ambulances landed before lawmakers for a vote.

Representative Ryan Lynch, a Butte Democrat, says when someone takes an air ambulance ride that’s out of their insurance network, it can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars. And patients don’t always know who is, or isn’t, in their network before they’re life-flighted.

Air ambulance companies sell memberships that, if a patient has one, covers the cost of their flight.

But, Representative Lynch says those memberships aren’t regulated, and they need to be, because they work like insurance. House Bill 73 would do that.

"For the folks out working today that are raising families, this looks like an insurance product, it acts like an insurance product. It waves that balance bill," Lynch says.

Lynch’s bill was approved and now requires one more vote in order to be sent over to the Senate for consideration.

A second bill, Senate Bill 44,  trying to address the costs of air ambulance will get its first debate on the Senate Floor Thursday. That bill would require insurance companies to either pay for the cost of an air ambulance ride, negotiate a settlement, or fight the air ambulance company in court, preventing the patient from taking on the cost.

In earlier debate, some opponents to that bill said it would break federal law because state’s aren’t allowed to regulate airlines, which includes air ambulances.

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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