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DelBene, Walorski Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Access to Air Ambulance Services

The legislation ensures fair reimbursement for air medical services that are critical for saving lives, particularly in rural communities.

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Washington, DC, July 27, 2017 | comments

Reps. Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Jackie Walorski (IN-02) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve access to emergency air medical services that are critical to providing emergency medical care and saving lives in rural communities. The Ensuring Access to Air Ambulance Services Act (H.R. 3378) would update Medicare reimbursement rates for air ambulance service providers based on the actual cost of care.

“We must ensure no American faces barriers to the critical care they need in an emergency. Unfortunately, the Medicare reimbursement system for air medical services has not been updated in 20 years, jeopardizing people’s access to treatment — particularly for those in rural and underserved communities,” DelBene said. “In a medical emergency, every second matters. Receiving needed healthcare through air ambulance services can literally mean the difference between life and death. I’m pleased to join with my colleague on the House Ways and Means Committee, Congresswoman Walorski, to introduce this important legislation to update our payment system and ensure emergency care is never out of reach.”

Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-Calif.) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas) joined DelBene and Walorski in introducing H.R. 3378.

Currently, the Medicare reimbursement rates for air ambulance services are significantly below the costs of providing the care, especially in rural areas. Air and ground ambulance providers are among the few providers that do not currently report cost data to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The Ensuring Access to Air Ambulance Services Act would require air medical service providers to report cost data to CMS beginning in 2019. Reimbursement rates would temporarily increase until 2021, when HHS would be required to update payment rates to reflect the actual costs of air ambulance services. It would also establish a value-based purchasing (VBP) program, which would collect quality data from air medical providers and distribute incentive payments to those who provide the highest quality care.

DelBene serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare.

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