Tester Unveils Legislation to Protect Montanans from Exorbitant Air Ambulance Costs

Senator Jon Tester today joined life-flight survivor Isla Rose Thompson and her family to unveil new legislation that reigns in exorbitant air ambulance costs and provides families financial certainty while facing life-threatening situations.

Tester’s legislation, the Isla Rose Life Flight Act, will allow state governments to regulate air ambulance billing and pricing practices to ensure policies are transparent for patients.  State governments are currently prohibited from regulating nearly all transportation aspects of air ambulance operations.

“I believe that every industry needs to be held accountable to its customers, and in this case it’s every man, woman and child that could ever face a life threatening situation,” Tester said.  “My legislation allows states to bring some much needed accountability to air ambulances–an industry that has been flying with little accountability.”

Three years ago, Isla Rose Thompson was in heart failure due to a congenital heart defect and was flown by an air ambulance to Seattle Children’s Hospital.  After Isla Rose’s ten week recovery, the family returned home to Butte to find that the air ambulance company billed them $56,000 for their flight.

Isla Rose’s mom, Amy Thompson, joined Tester to share their family’s firsthand account.

“There is a need for change, a change that prevents air ambulances from charging beyond what is necessary, a change that gives states the capacity to protect families, and hold patients harmless,” Amy Thompson said.  “Senator Tester is proposing a concrete solution with the Isla Rose Life Flight Act, a necessary, non-partisan solution to provide states the capacity to put the patient first.  This is a solution for change that says this is a lifesaving service, it is not a right to profit off those who had the misfortune of being in an emergency situation.”

The Montana Economic Affairs Interim Committee found that 13 air ambulance are currently operating in Montana, and less than half contract with an insurance provider.  The average cost of an out-of-network air ambulance flight in Montana is $53,000.

A video of Tester and Thompson’s announcement is available HERE.

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