BISMARCK, N.D. – Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread announced today that he has been nominated by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to serve as the state insurance regulator on the Air Ambulance and Patient Billing Advisory Committee recently created by Congress. This committee will review options to improve the disclosure of charges and fees for air medical services, better inform consumers of insurance options for such services and protect consumers from balance billing.
“Establishing this committee is a positive step toward addressing the critical issue of air ambulance balance billing practices where patients with health insurance receive large, unexpected bills for air transport services,” Godfread said. “I am hopeful this committee can craft meaningful recommendations that will allow Congress to take action and greatly reduce or eliminate the practice of surprise, balance billing for air ambulance transports.”
Godfread’s nomination comes as a federal judge issued a split decision regarding a consumer protection law enacted by the state during the 2017 Legislative Session. The law protects consumers with health insurance from receiving balance bills from air ambulances, prohibits air ambulance subscription agreements 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 so patients can make informed decisions about which air ambulance company they should use.
The decision invalidated the portion of the law that protects North Dakotans from receiving balance bills from air ambulances. However, the provision requiring hospitals to inform patients in non-emergency situations about which air ambulances have contractual agreements with the patient’s health insurance company and the provision prohibiting the sale of air ambulance subscription agreements both remain valid and enforceable by law.
“I am extremely disappointed with the court’s decision to invalidate a law that protects consumers with health insurance from receiving large and unexpected bills,” Godfread said. “We are still reviewing our legal options and creating a plan for how we move forward, given this ruling, but I am pleased that some of the provisions of the law remain in place as they are important consumer protection pieces. Despite this setback, I will continue to fight to protect North Dakotans from receiving these unfair and unreasonable bills that in many cases lead to financial ruin.”