BISMARCK, N.D. – Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread today issued a cease and desist order to AirMedCare Network for selling air ambulance subscriptions to North Dakotans illegally. Consumer protection legislation enacted in 2017 banned the sale of air ambulance subscriptions in North Dakota.
“The complete disregard for North Dakota law displayed through the business practices of AirMedCare Network will not be tolerated,” Godfread said. “Since this issue has come to my attention, I have given them every opportunity to correct this malpractice. They have been informed that they are breaking the law and yet they’ve responded by essentially stating that North Dakota law isn’t valid. AirMedCare Network has left us with no other choice but to take action against them.”
It has been alleged that AirMedCare Network, a self-described alliance of air ambulance providers including Guardian Flight and Valley Med Flight, has knowingly sold air ambulance subscriptions relating to services or the billing of services provided by an air ambulance provider and used targeted Facebook advertisements for air ambulance subscription services in North Dakota. Valley Med Flight, a subsidiary of Guardian Flight, has also allegedly knowingly sold air ambulance subscriptions by posting a website directing consumers to a link to the AirMedCare Network air ambulance subscription service application.
North Dakota has taken a proactive step in banning the sale of these subscription plans because they have been shown to be predatory and counterintuitive to health insurance. As it stands in North Dakota, only one of AirMedCare’s four providers and only one of the nine providers that operate in North Dakota is affiliated with AirMedCare. Also, Guardian Flight is currently in-network with North Dakota’s largest health insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND). Which means if you have insurance through BCBSND, a subscription is worthless. Because these plans offer limited to no value, the North Dakota Legislature took the proactive step of banning the sale of these subscriptions in 2017. AirMedCare is aware of North Dakota law and has willfully disregarded the actions taken by the Legislature.
In 2017, Governor Doug Burgum signed Senate Bill 2231 regarding the regulation of how insurance companies pay for air ambulance services in North Dakota into law. The law protects consumers with insurance from receiving balance bills from air ambulances, prohibits air ambulance subscriptions from being sold and requires hospitals to inform patients in non-emergency situations about which air ambulances have contractual agreements with the patient’s health insurance company.
A federal judge issued a split decision regarding SB 2231 in January 2019 invalidating the portion of the law that protects North Dakotans from receiving balance bills from air ambulances. However, the provision prohibiting the sale of air ambulance subscriptions remains valid and enforceable by law.
AirMedCare has been aggressive is their sales of these illegal subscriptions. If you purchased a subscription after Aug. 1, 2017, you are encouraged to reach out to the Department at (701) 328-2440 or firstname.lastname@example.org. There is limited recourse for consumers who have purchased a subscription, however, the Department continues to investigate how many North Dakotans have purchased these illegal subscription plans in hopes of ordering a refund of their money.
“North Dakota has enacted laws and regulations in an attempt to provide transparency and protection to our consumers despite the challenges we have faced and continue to face,” Godfread said. “I will continue to fight to protect North Dakotans from bad actors who mean to prey on people when they are at their most vulnerable. We remain, however, at a crucial point where the only solution outside of being tied up in lawsuits for years is action by Congress. In the meantime, we must remind ourselves who is suffering at the hands of these companies breaking North Dakota law.
Read the order in its entirety here.