Anthem health insurance is now covering emergency medical flights in several states, including Missouri.
A release on Business Wire this week announced that Air Methods, an air ambulance service, has come to an agreement with Anthem to provide the insurer’s consumers with emergency medical services as part of their in-network health coverage.
Before the new arrangement, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri had no in-network air ambulance providers. There have been widespread reports of patients being billed tens-of-thousands of dollars after being airlifted because their insurance providers had no in-network access to air ambulance services.
The new partnership covers Anthem policyholders in Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Missouri’s Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who has a bill to let states regulate medical costs from air ambulances, praised the agreement and urged for more such partnerships in the Show-Me State.
“It’s absurd to expect consumers to worry about price-shopping and in-network services when they need an air ambulance,” said McCaskill. “This announcement is a step in the right direction, and I strongly urge other air ambulance providers and health insurers to follow suit to make sure Missourians have affordable access to these life-saving services without having to worry about an astronomical bill after the fact.”
McCaskill’s has been criticized by industry interest groups including S.O.A.R. have criticized McCaskill’s legislation for causing confusion by allowing the possibility for different rules to exist in different states.
The groups contend the problem could be dealt with by addressing outdated reimbursement rates from public and private insurers to air ambulance services.
Republican State Senator Paul Wieland of Imperial, who sponsored a separate new law regulating Anthem, expressed concern in April that patients were at the mercy the air lifters.
“When you’re unconscious, they wheel you into a hospital,” said Wieland. “You don’t know if you’re in network or out of network. You’re at the mercy of whatever they do to try to keep you alive. You don’t have much choice. They’re going to get you to the hospital the fastest way they can.”