Walorski Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Improve Access to Air Medical Services
Legislation Ensures Fair Reimbursement for Air Ambulance Services Critical to Rural Communities
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) this week introduced bipartisan legislation to improve access to emergency air medical services that are critical to providing emergency medical care 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 actual cost data.
“In critical medical emergencies, the difference between life and death is often a matter of minutes – which is why air ambulance services save lives,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “Unfortunately, outdated Medicare reimbursement rates that don’t fully address the costs of air medical transport put these services at risk. This bipartisan bill ensures Hoosiers, especially those in rural areas, continue to have access to the air ambulances they depend on for emergency medical care.”
“This bill is very important to the patients we serve in Indiana, especially in rural areas where air transport makes the difference for critically ill and injured patients,” said Mike Poore, Interim CEO, Lutheran Health Network.
Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne operates Lutheran Air, an emergency medical flight program. Walorski in February visited Wabash Municipal Airport, one of two sites where Lutheran Air operates.
Walorski was joined by U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-Calif.), and Pete Sessions (R-Texas) in introducing H.R. 3378.
Currently, the Medicare reimbursement rates for air ambulance services are significantly below the costs of providing the services, especially in rural areas. Air and ground ambulance providers are among the few providers that do not 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 rates to accurately reflect the costs of air ambulance services based on the first two years of data. It would also establish a value-based purchasing (VBP) program, which would collect quality data from air medical service providers and distribute bonus payments to providers with high quality scores.
Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.