Insurers, EMS providers battle over transportation fees

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
October 31, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- There's a battle brewing between insurers and Emergency Medical Services providers over the cost of transportation, and it's leaving patients stuck in the middle.

A ride to the hospital in an ambulance can cost between $800-$1,000. Insurers don't always cover the entire cost, putting the remaining balance on the patient.

The two sides came together on Tuesday to discuss possible compromises to help take some of the financial burden off patients.

Each group blames the other side for cases where patients have been stuck with outlandish charges.

Insurance Consumer Advocate's Sha'Ron James searched for common ground.

"If nothing else comes out of this, that there are greater consumer protections so that consumers don't receive large unexpected bills from providers because insurance carriers aren't covering those valued services," James said.

Insurers say transportation bills have been excessively high, especially for air transport.

The "fix insurers favor" is a ban on balance billing. It would prevent patients from picking up extra costs, requiring insurers and EMS providers to compromise on a price.

"You know, this is not a situation of egregious billing," said Wences Troncoso of the Florida Association of Health Plans. "We believe it's price gouging."

Plant City Fire Chief Dan Azzariti says the insurers' fix would cut critical revenue from Florida's mostly public EMS providers. He also worries about Florida's large visitor population.

"They don't pay taxes," he said, "So any offset in cost is shifted to those who do pay taxes."

The Insurance Consumer Advocate will make recommendations for both insurers and EMS providers. If the two can't come to a resolution, she may be forced to recommend legislative fixes.

The report will consist of best practice recommendations and contract negotiation recommendations between insurers and EMS providers.

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