Editor: A recent study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that one quarter of rural Americans experienced a time where they needed health care but couldn’t get it. This is not surprising, given the rapid rate of rural hospital closures continuing to plague communities.

Air medical services have helped fill this coverage gap to help care for patients experiencing emergencies and provide quick transport to the most appropriate health care facility that may be farther away. Yet these services are also under threat, as evidenced by the 35 air medical bases that closed this year, putting the entirety of the rural emergency health care system in a precarious position.

Air medical services are severely underfunded due to Medicare reimbursement rates that haven’t been updated in 20 years. This reimbursement issue leads to cost-shifting onto private insurers, who then refuse to go in-network with providers or arbitrarily deny coverage, leaving patients with surprise bills and air medical services struggling to continue operating.

Current legislative proposals further threaten air medical services. Section 105 of the Lower Health Care Costs Act would allow insurers to pay air medical providers at an even lower rate than they currently are. Sens. Sinema and McSally must reject this proposed legislation in favor of a data-driven surprise billing solution that doesn’t jeopardize access to health care for millions of rural and underserved Americans and addresses the root causes of the issue.

Carter Johnson

Save Our Air Medical Resources

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