Legislators respond to the end of air ambulance memberships in Wyoming

Updated at 5:31 pm on April 10th to include a response from AirMedCare was sent to County 10 at 4:17 pm today. That response has been shared at the bottom of this post.

Last week, County 10 shared an update that air ambulance service providers are no longer allowed to sell memberships in Wyoming as of April 1st, 2020, due to HB0194 passed by legislation in 2019. While this is the case, several legislators and the Wyoming Department of Insurance reached out to County 10 to share their reasoning and perspective on why the bill was passed.

Common themes that came up during those conversations included: regulations and consumer protection, the amount of time, since the law passed, air ambulance service providers had to file for insurance licensing, and the fact that one company MASA (Medical Air Services Association) complied with the new law (they have already done this in at least one other state).

Advertisement

“One of the issues we’ve had in Wyoming is insurance and air ambulance companies are not coming together,” said Wyoming Department of Insurance Senior Health Policy Analyst Denise Burke. The consumer had no protection due to the inability to guarantee that coverage because it is not regulated. “We need to do more to protect our consumers.” Another point made by Burke was that there are 27 air ambulance companies licensed in the state of Wyoming, and when air ambulance service is called there is no guarantee which provider would be responding.

HD 54 Representative Lloyd Larsen shared several thoughts on the consumer protection the legislators had in mind. “To require that air ambulance subscriptions, or memberships offered to the public be licensed in the State of Wyoming by the State Insurance Commissioner as a disability insurance. Because these memberships were being touted as insurance by the providers the legislature felt there was a need to make sure they meet some of the basic expectations required to protect the public such as: Does the provider have enough reserves to pay claims; Are the conditions or promises promoted in their memberships being complied with; Are the claims made in advertising accurate; Are memberships being sold outside the carrier’s area of operation thus being of no value to the consumer; Are there avenues of recourse to the consumer if there are violations of the agreements.”

You can read Representative Larsen’s complete response here: HD 54 Representative Lloyd Larsen – HB0194

Along with the shared concern for regulation and consumer protection, the amount of time before and after the legislation was passed was also brought up. “Most air ambulance providers were well aware of this change as they and their attorneys participated throughout the legislative process,” said HB0194 Sponsor HD 3 Representative Eric Barlow. “In fact, it was in part at their request that the 2019 legislation included the delayed implementation date of April 1, 2020. This provided more than a year for interested companies to work with the Department of Insurance. Additionally, earlier this year, the Department sent out reminder notices to the companies. Finally, during the 2020 legislative session no one, including air ambulance companies, raised concerns with the law that would soon be coming into effect.”

Advertisement

You can read Representative Barlow’s complete response here: HD 3 Representative Eric Barlow

In a joint press release, State Senator Cale Case – SD 25, State Rep. David Miller – HD 55, and State Rep. Tim Salazar – HD 34 shared, “Companies were given over a year to comply with the law but chose not to. With hindsight, this reluctance is understandable because these companies do not want to meet the general requirements of an insurance provider which would include covering flights for all carriers.”

“In responding to our constituents, the undersigned members of the Fremont County delegation have asked the Legislative Service Office to draft new legislation to provide exceptions to the new law so that individual companies can once again sell & renew membership for individual & family plans that existed before April 1st, the date these two bills took effect. It is our intent to seek to introduce this new legislation for our constituents in the probable legislative special session that will convene to address federal stimulus funds allocated for the state of Wyoming in the coming weeks.”

Advertisement

You can read the joint press release here: Case, Miller, Salazar – HB0194, HB0172

HD 33 Representative Andi Clifford shared in a press release, “Since this issue has come to my attention, I agree with several of my legislative colleagues who feel that the air ambulance service providers have been given ample time to comply with the requirements put forth by legislation that was passed by the legislature. At that time, I feel that we, as lawmakers, were being proactive in addressing protection for Wyoming consumers.”

“At this moment, the context of healthcare is drastically different. I will consider this issue very carefully, taking into consideration the best interests of my constituents. I am open to looking at all the options of what we, as a state, do next.”

Advertisement

You can read Representative Clifford’s complete response here: HD 33 Representative Andi Clifford – HB149, HB172 Air Ambulance Service Transport

“While time is not the issue, it’s changing our company to something different,” shared Classic Air Medical Director of Customer Relations Chad Bowdre. “We have been lobbying with our one lawyer and doing what our resources allow.” Chad reiterated it is not feasible for Classic Air Medical to become an insurance company. “We are an air medical company that focuses on safety, medical expertise, and flying.”

The release from Classic Air Medical can be viewed here: Classic Air Medical – Wyoming Memberships

County 10 reached out to AirMedCare Network, you may know them better locally as Guardian, for their response to the law that has now gone into effect. They have not responded to all of our questions, but did send us a press release that can be viewed here: AirMedCare Network – Wyoming Memberships

AirMedCare sent County 10 an additional response to our inquiries today, April 10th at 4:17 pm. Their response is as follows:

The Wyoming Insurance Commissioner sent a Memo in late January 2020, notifying AirMedCare Network that even though the State of Wyoming’s attempt to regulate air ambulance providers had failed, the Department of Insurance still intended to require air ambulance membership providers to be licensed as disability insurers with the Wyoming Department of Insurance.

AirMedCare Network will not become a licensed disability insurer. AirMedCare Network memberships are not disability insurance, but rather prepayment for services provided by AirMedCare Network affiliate providers. At least one of the companies that has registered as a disability insurer in Wyoming does not operate any aircraft in Wyoming and promises to pay for services provided by other companies, which is a form of insurance. If AirMedCare Network transports a member and provides a discount for that service, it is not insurance. These new regulations misclassify AirMedCare Network memberships and will prevent Wyoming residents from participating in cost-saving programs like ours.

AirMedCare Network is encouraging its members to contact their state representatives and the Wyoming Department of Insurance to let them know that by eliminating the ability to purchase a membership, they are restricting access to emergency lifesaving medical treatment and imposing an unnecessary financial burden on state residents.

Advertisement

Related Posts

Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?