According to the Missouri Department of Health, more than 2 million Missourians reside in rural areas. With rural hospitals closing at alarming rates, rural emergency medical care is scarce. Thankfully, air medical services help fill the gap — ensuring patients get the quickest and best care no matter where they live or their financial situation.
However, removing the air medical industry from the Airline Deregulation Act, as proposed by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would lead to a patchwork of inconsistent state regulations governing air medical providers. The law was enacted to deregulate the aviation industry so that states cannot control rates, routes or service. This ensures that patients are able to receive the care they need, and allows air medical services to get patients to the best and closest medical facility. The result of Sen. McCaskill's legislation would be reduced access, increased costs and worse health outcomes.
A bipartisan bill — the Ensuring Access to Air Ambulance Services Act (HR 3378/S 2121) — would address patients' costs of these services, which is due to under-reimbursement by Medicare. Although Sen. McCaskill’s bill is well-intentioned, it could harm the very constituents she represents.
Bill Patt • Steelville, Mo.