Air Ambulance Companies Defend ‘Balance Billing’ Of Patients
By Alex Ruoff
Billing patients directly for services an insurer won’t cover is critical to the business model for air ambulance providers, industry executives said during the first meeting of a federal advisory committee.
The practice known as “balance billing,” which lawmakers are debating whether to outlaw, is a rarely used but important tool for collecting fees from commercially insured patients, who account for most air ambulance company revenue despite being a minority of the population they serve, the operators said.
David Motzkin, president of the air ambulance company PHI Health, said billing patients directly is essential to “get the level of cooperation” from them and their employers needed to pressure their insurers to pay full freight for air ambulance services. These services can cost more than $20,000 for an emergency ride.
“Oftentimes you’ve sent the patient to collections and they’re acting to not have that on their credit,” Motzkin said Wednesday during a meeting of the Department of Transportation’s Air Ambulance and Patient Billing Advisory Committee. “They’re angry and compelled at the same time to work to cause the insurance company to pay a little more.”