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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: June 6, 2017 01:40 PM
From: Senator Scott E. Hutchinson
To: All Senate members
Subject: Air Medevac Funding Increase
In the near future I intend to introduce legislation to address the low Medical Assistance payment rate for air ambulance services. The current payment policies left unaddressed will jeopardize the ability of Pennsylvanians, particularly our rural residents, to obtain timely access to trauma care and specialty services.

The role of air medevac in saving lives and improving outcomes for critically injured and ill patients is undisputed. Approximately 90% of all air transports are for trauma, stroke and cardiac patients. For many, especially in rural areas of the state, air ambulance is their only hope of reaching a trauma center within the so-called “Golden Hour”. As a large state with many rural areas, access to these “flying Intensive Care Units” is essential to the health and safety of all residents of the Commonwealth.

Air medevac providers only respond when called by local emergency responders or hospital-based physicians and have no knowledge of a patient’s insurance status. Medicaid payments do not cover the cost for fuel, much less the cost of maintaining aircraft, an air base or employing highly trained personnel on a 24/7/365 basis. Currently Medical Assistance pays a $200 “lift fee” and $2.00 per “patient loaded” mile (after excluding the first 20 miles) for lifesaving air medevac services. This leaves air ambulance providers in the position of having to absorb the loss on Medicaid patients or attempt to recoup the loss by increasing the charges to private payers. Along with below cost Medicare payments, Medicaid payment policies are forcing air ambulance providers to cross-subsidize the service by charging more to private payers. This practice is distorting the cost of these services for privately insured patients and is not sustainable over the long term.

My legislation would increase the medical fee-for-service rates paid to air medivac companies to sixty-six percent of the Medicare reimbursement rates paid in rural Pennsylvania for comparable services. This increase in reimbursement rate will help to ensure that this life saving and critical transport system remains well-funded and active.

I hope you will join me in sponsoring this legislation. If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact Nathan Akers in my office at 787-9684 or nakers@pasen.gov.

Introduced as SB769