A coalition formed by various ambulance providers gathered at the Indiana State House earlier this week for a legislative luncheon. Senators and representatives were given a unique chanceto speak with providers on the front lines of Senate Bill (SB) 135, authored by Senator Jon Ford.
After an individual rides in an ambulance for medical treatment, a bill is provided to their insurance plan to recoup the costs incurred by ambulance providers for providing service. Many times, insurance companies are not obligated to pay the full amount of the bill. When insurance fails to cover the medical charges, the burden of paying the remaining balance of the bill falls on the patient, which is known as “balance billing.”
SB 135 places the responsibility of negotiating fair compensation for the provision of ambulance services on the ambulance provider and insurance company, disallowing balance-bills for Hoosiers. The call to action for this bill is to put Hoosiers first and advocate for patients.
“As ambulance providers, we support bills like SB 135 that advocate for and positively impact our patients,” explained Tony Anteau, vice president of Seals Ambulance. “The reimbursement for the health care provided to our patients is dictated by each patient’s individual health plan. This bill will allow ambulance providers to work directly with the health plans on emergency ambulance reimbursement without inconvenience or risk of financial impact to the patient. We will be able to have a dispute resolution process, go directly to the insurance company and secure a fair reimbursement for each emergency ambulance transport.”
Trans-Care Ambulance President and CEO, Russell Ferrell discussed a trend in healthcare which places more financial burden on the patient, rather than the insurance company.
“The consumer used to get a bill that would have been 10 or 20 percent of the overall bill. Over the years while our prices may have changed a little bit to stay with inflation, insurance companies have changed dramatically to where they are paying 20 percent versus 80 percent,” Ferrell said. “Now, the consumer is getting 80 percent or more of the bill.”
Specific language in SB 135 will place emphasis on balance-billing, so as not to leave the patient with the brunt of the bill.
“I’m pleased to see Senator Ford taking this legislation on for his constituents. Through personal experience, my husband and I learned firsthand the financial battle between the ambulance provider and the insurance companies,” stated Ashley Delaunois. “Receiving a surprise bill after my son received transportation care was hard to accept, especially when we didn’t see it coming. It is time, for Indiana families to be protected, while not crippling the ambulance industry and creating fairness for the insurance providers. It’s time and I’m hopeful.”
Senator Jon Ford believes this bill will ultimately save Indiana residents a great amount of money.
“As a state senator, it is my job to champion public policy that lowers healthcare costs for Hoosier patients,” explained Ford. “SB 135 will completely eliminate balance-billing for emergency ground ambulance services, which will save Hoosiers millions of dollars in emergency healthcare expenses.”
The Senate has until January 27 to secure a hearing for SB 135. The coalition encourages Hoosiers to reach out to their local elected officials and request a hearing for this bill.