Committee OK’s bill to protect ambulance payments

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On Feb. 2, the Joint Committee on Financial Services Committee favorably reported a bill that would prohibit insurers from paying patients directly for emergency medical services.

The bill, which would also protect the authority of cities and towns to set rates for emergency medical calls, is now before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing as House 3917.

Some health insurers are establishing a practice of making payments directly to patients for ambulance services, leaving the provider of the service with the responsibility of collecting from the patient. H. 3917 would prohibit this “pay-the-patient” practice, meaning that emergency medical costs would continue to be paid by the insurer directly to the provider.

The bill is supported by the MMA, which has been urging the Legislature to take action on the issue. In a letter to legislators last fall, MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith wrote, “Local ambulance service providers require continued access to a stable and adequate revenue stream in order to maintain the current high level of services provided to Massachusetts residents.”

The Health Care Financing Committee, chaired by Rep. Steven Walsh of Lynn and Sen. Richard Moore of Uxbridge, is expected to take action on the bill this spring.

Written by MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Katie S. McCue