On the same day that air ambulance companies sued to block federal surprise billing protections from going into effect, new data from Brookings reinforces the blatant motive behind the suit. The analysis – Private equity-owned air ambulances receive higher payments, generate larger and more frequent surprise bills – finds that the “high share of [air ambulance] claims resulting in potential balance bills combined with elevated charges, at present, leaves many patients at risk of receiving an enormous medical bill after their transport…This risk is more pronounced when patients are transported by a private equity or publicly-traded provider.”
Air ambulance companies, including the private equity companies backing them, want to maintain their profitable and successful business model that leaves patients, employers and taxpayers on the hook to pay thousands of dollars in unfair surprise medical bills. The Brookings analysis shows that air ambulance companies can demand high out-of-network rates (and then consequently, increased in-network rates), forcing patients to pay anywhere from $15,000 – $32,000 for one transport – costs that we all end up paying in the form of higher premiums.
In the case where a patient is unexpectedly transported by a private equity-backed company, the Brookings researchers estimate that a “patient had a 55% chance of being left potentially liable for a surprise out-of-network balance bill averaging more than $25,000.”
Importantly, the authors note that, “air ambulance carriers will be among the host of providers barred from billing patients for more than in-network cost-sharing amounts starting on January 1, 2022. This analysis, therefore, highlights the importance and magnitude of the direct financial protection being afforded to patients by the No Surprises Act.”
More than 60 leading patient, consumer, union and employer groups recently called on the Biden Administration to maintain the vital consumer protections included as part of the No Surprises Act and to ensure those safeguards are implemented as planned starting January 2022. To view the letter, click here.