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AIR METHODS STATEMENT ON FLORIDA HB 747

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by Air Methods

On Sept. 18, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 747: Coverage for Air Ambulance Services into law. Air Methods has released the following statement on the legislation:

Two years ago, when Gov. Ron DeSantis was on the campaign trail, he praised “patient-centered, market-based insurance.” But that notion suffered a severe setback for patients when the Florida State Legislature passed and, on Sept. 18, Gov. DeSantis signed, HB 747.

This bill – signed into law not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in the middle of hurricane season – incentivizes health insurance companies in Florida to exit in-network agreements with air medical services, severely limiting the transport and prehospital care air ambulances provide to critically injured or ill patients. In short, it puts Floridians at risk while making insurance companies more profitable.

Several major U.S. health insurers recently reported massive second-quarter earnings, more than double what they were in 2019. These enormous gains are in stark contrast to the financial hit many hospitals have taken during the pandemic. Air medical services partner with these facilities to transport patients to appropriate sites of care in a timely manner, thus limiting the cost of care hospitals incur. HB 747 puts this lifeline at risk in many communities.

This legislation was pushed through unilaterally by health insurers with no public health data to support it. Their bill treats air medical services as an excessive element of Florida’s healthcare system. That is an incredibly dangerous stance, and its effect will be to compromise Floridians’ access to care in favor of health insurers’ balance sheets.

Rather than pushing for health insurance companies to go in-network with air medical services, the state government is essentially setting rates based on confidential reimbursement agreements. Health insurers now have the greenlight to put their profits ahead of the interests of our Florida patients. It is Big Government at its worst and price-setting has no place in a patient-centric health system.

HB 747 allows Florida insurers to set the reimbursement bar so low that they now have no reason to negotiate reasonable rates with providers or stay in existing in-network agreements that currently cover patients. It leaves Florida vulnerable to losing access to emergency air medical services, because there is no guarantee that providers can survive on what health insurers will now choose to pay. Moreover, HB 747 was not needed to protect patients. Health insurers could have protected patients years ago by negotiating in-network agreements with Florida’s emergency air medical providers, but many choose not to. As a result, the very bills that HB 747 claims to protect patients from are a consequence of the health insurers refusing to adequately cover emergency care.

With air medical bases throughout the state, Air Methods has worked hard to show the benefits of going in-network and has done just that with Florida Blue. We have seen our partnership with Florida Blue directly benefit our patients by simplifying the billing process for them and lowering their out-of-pocket costs. Now we need insurance companies like Aetna, Cigna, and UnitedHealthcare to do the same thing. Yet HB 747 all but guarantees these three companies will walk away from any negotiations and could jeopardize our other in-network agreements.

Since the pandemic, Air Methods has transported more than 120 suspected COVID patients in Florida. Our dedicated crews will continue to work hard to treat and transport any Floridian who requires our care. Meanwhile, our Patient Advocacy program has continued to assist any of our patients put in the middle of the billing process by their health insurer and has successfully lowered our patients’ average out of pocket costs to only $167. Unfortunately, HB 747 provides insurance companies a government-mandated excuse to continue to keep patients out-of-network for air medical services.  

We are asking the federal courts to overturn this law and protect Florida citizens’ access to much-needed emergency air medical care.