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美国国家公共电台 NPR Will Congress Bring Sky-High Air Ambulance Bills Down To Earth?

时间:2018-09-28 06:45来源:互联网 提供网友:nan   字体: [ ]



Using a so-called air ambulance can be expensive, which is why such flights are usually only used by the critically ill. But a legal quirk1 means that paying for one of these flights can actually lead to financial ruin. Congress has been working on this. But in the meantime, NPR and Kaiser Health News have been asking patients to send in medical bills. Here's Jackie Fortier of StateImpact Oklahoma.

JACKIE FORTIER, BYLINE2: Pilot Chris Glasgow flicks3 metal switches above his head in the cockpit of an air ambulance in Pocola, Okla.

Now we're over Fort Smith, Ark., and that took - what? Maybe four minutes?

CHRIS GLASGOW: If that. I was going kind of slow.

FORTIER: If I had been a patient, that flight could've been a lifesaver, but it could also come with a life-altering price tag. There is no cap on pricing for air ambulance rides, and the bills are often tens of thousands of dollars. Doug Flanders is the manager of government affairs for Air Methods, a private company that owns the Pocola helicopter and base, along with about 2/3 of all the air ambulances in the U.S. Flanders' company fought a proposal that would have let states restrict pricing for air ambulances.

DOUG FLANDERS: What some people called just a little provision could have large impacts to patients all over the country.

FORTIER: Air ambulance companies are considered air carriers, like Southwest or American Airlines. All are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. That's kept states from regulating the industry. Flanders says an earlier version of the FAA funding bill would've have led to a patchwork4 of regulations.

FLANDERS: What if the state of Arkansas decides that it will only accept Arkansas helicopters? Those are life-and-death decisions. Borders should not make a difference, but this kind of legislation that creates borders in the sky would do that.

FORTIER: The for-profit industry lobbied heavily against it and won. Congress dropped plans to let states regulate prices in the current FAA funding bill. Airline deregulation passed in the 1970s left the air ambulance sector5 with little oversight6. Greg Hillenbrand runs a nonprofit air ambulance service in Kansas. He says with high fixed7 costs like helicopters and trained medical personnel ready to fly at a moment's notice, more competition in the industry has driven prices up, not down.

GREG HILDENBRAND: We still have to spread the same costs per base over fewer numbers of patients, and so that has driven costs up considerably8.

FORTIER: The average air ambulance bill sent to NPR and Kaiser Health News was for more than $40,000. If a patient's insurance won't cover the whole flight bill, air ambulance companies are allowed to directly bill the patient. It's called balance billing, and says Erin Fuse Brown, an associate law professor at Georgia State University, there are no legal options.

ERIN FUSE BROWN: There's nothing really they can turn to because of this regulatory blind spot, essentially9, that air ambulance providers fall into that would protect them, that would allow them to push back on the extraordinary charges that they are billed when they get home from the hospital.

FORTIER: The bipartisan legislation calls for a Consumer Protection Committee that will be formed. But Erin Fuse Brown says...

BROWN: It's unclear at this point, you know, whether the committee would substantively10 provide consumers with protection from these types of bills.

FORTIER: The House is expected to vote on the FAA funding bill as early as today, and the Senate could act before the end of the week.

For NPR News, I'm Jackie Fortier in Norman, Okla.


1 quirk 00KzV     
  • He had a strange quirk of addressing his wife as Mrs Smith.他很怪,把自己的妻子称作史密斯夫人。
  • The most annoying quirk of his is wearing a cap all the time.他最令人感到厌恶的怪癖就是无论何时都戴著帽子。
2 byline sSXyQ     
  • His byline was absent as well.他的署名也不见了。
  • We wish to thank the author of this article which carries no byline.我们要感谢这篇文章的那位没有署名的作者。
3 flicks be7565962bbd3138e53d782064502ca3     
(尤指用手指或手快速地)轻击( flick的第三人称单数 ); (用…)轻挥; (快速地)按开关; 向…笑了一下(或瞥了一眼等)
  • 'I shall see it on the flicks, I suppose.' “电影上总归看得见。” 来自英汉文学
  • Last night to the flicks. 昨晚看了场电影。 来自英汉文学
4 patchwork yLsx6     
  • That proposal is nothing else other than a patchwork.那个建议只是一个大杂烩而已。
  • She patched new cloth to the old coat,so It'seemed mere patchwork. 她把新布初到那件旧上衣上,所以那件衣服看上去就象拼凑起来的东西。
5 sector yjczYn     
  • The export sector will aid the economic recovery. 出口产业将促进经济复苏。
  • The enemy have attacked the British sector.敌人已进攻英国防区。
6 oversight WvgyJ     
  • I consider this a gross oversight on your part.我把这件事看作是你的一大疏忽。
  • Your essay was not marked through an oversight on my part.由于我的疏忽你的文章没有打分。
7 fixed JsKzzj     
  • Have you two fixed on a date for the wedding yet?你们俩选定婚期了吗?
  • Once the aim is fixed,we should not change it arbitrarily.目标一旦确定,我们就不应该随意改变。
8 considerably 0YWyQ     
  • The economic situation has changed considerably.经济形势已发生了相当大的变化。
  • The gap has narrowed considerably.分歧大大缩小了。
9 essentially nntxw     
  • Really great men are essentially modest.真正的伟人大都很谦虚。
  • She is an essentially selfish person.她本质上是个自私自利的人。
10 substantively 4769f08f815efd099539943a5bdfde0e     
  • WTO-consistency had to be secured substantively as well. 与WTO的一致性还必须获得实质性的保证。 来自互联网
  • What is called quantum information science is substantively to research information science encoding with quantum states. 量子信息学是近几年迅速发展起来的一门新兴交叉学科,它是量子力学和信息科学相结合的产物。 来自互联网
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