Air Ambulance: Data Collection and Transparency Needed to Enhance DOT Oversight, Report to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of Representatives   [open pdf - 2MB]

"Helicopter air ambulances reduce transport times for critically ill patients during life-threatening emergencies. Although patients typically have little to no choice over the service or provider given the often emergency nature of the transports, they might be billed for charges that have potentially devastating financial impacts. GAO [Government Accountability Office] was asked to review air ambulance pricing. This report examines: (1) the prices charged for air ambulance service, (2) the factors that affect prices, and (3) stakeholders' views on any actions the federal government could take to address air ambulance pricing. To answer these questions GAO analyzed 2 years of data (2010 and 2014-the latest available) on prices from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and a private health insurance database; interviewed 26 stakeholders, such as 8 air ambulance providers chosen to represent a range of types (hospital-affiliated and independent) and sizes; and interviewed DOT [Department of Transportation] and CMS officials. The Secretary of Transportation should: (1) communicate a method to receive air ambulance, including balance billing, complaints; (2) take steps to make complaint information publicly available; (3) assess available data and determine what information could assist in the evaluation of future complaints; and (4) consider air ambulance consumer disclosure requirements. DOT concurred with all but the third recommendation, stating additional information is not needed for such purposes. GAO stands by the recommendation, as discussed in this report. DOT and CMS also provided technical comments which were incorporated as appropriate."

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Government Accountability Office: http://www.gao.gov/
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