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Gordon signs air ambulance bill to keep Wyoming waiver hopes alive

Crews gather around the Life Flight helicopter during survival training, in April 2018, on Casper Mountain. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City, File)

CASPER, Wyo. — Governor Mark Gordon signed House Bill 172 into law on Monday, March 9. The bill allows the Wyoming Department of Health to continue to try to negotiate a Wyoming air ambulance Medicaid waiver.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency, rejected Wyoming’s previous “Air Ambulance Waiver” request on Jan. 3, 2020. The state sought the waiver in an attempt to mitigate high costs of medical transport by helicopter.

Senate District 14 Senator Fred Baldwin told his fellow senators on Monday, March 2 that passing the bill would authorize the Wyoming Department of Health to keep discussions with CMS open, in hopes that they might approve a waiver or clarify reasons why the previous proposal was rejected.

Baldwin noted that the legislature passed a similar bill last year which authorized the Wyoming Department of Health to seek federal approval for the proposed waiver.

“We were seeking to control rising costs of medical transport via helicopter,” he said, adding that the average cost of such transport is $40,000.

But last years bill was set to sunset, meaning the Wyo. Department of Health wouldn’t be authorized to continue seeking CMS approval of the plan or reasons why the plan was rejected.

“This bill will keep that open,” Baldwin said. “I encourage the body to…keep this alive.”

According to the Wyo. Department of Health, “The waiver would expand Wyoming Medicaid to all state residents for the specific purpose of air ambulance transportation.”

They list the following goals for the proposed waiver:

-Eliminate the surprise billing of patients

-Reduce the average cost of air ambulance flights while ensuring a set level of access and quality

-Increase price transparency for patients and employer groups

Wyoming Department of Health

“Under the plan, WDH would competitively bid for a selected network of air ambulance providers, make periodic flat payments (similar to a gym membership) to these contracted providers and then recoup the revenue needed to fund the system from the insurance plans and individuals already paying for transports,” the department adds.


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