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An air ambulance. Photo: Steve Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images via Getty Images

Air ambulances charge higher rates relative to Medicare than most other services, and these rates have increased over time, according to another new study in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: Insurers often don't contract with air ambulances, meaning patients may be charged exorbitant sums for emergency transportation whether they're insured or not.

By the numbers: Air ambulances charged between 4.1 and 9.5 times more than Medicare paid for these services in 2016, depending on the type of ambulance and type of charge.

  • The median charge per air ambulance trip increased from about $24,000 in 2012 to about $39,000 in 2016.
  • The median ground ambulance charge was 2.8 times what Medicare paid.

What we're watching: Air ambulances are very unhappy with the provisions of a Senate health care bill that would force them to separate out transportation and medical charges, prohibit them from balance billing patients, and establish a payment benchmark for out-of-network care.

  • But, as the authors of the study write, "without congressional or regulatory effort to address air ambulance billing practices, patients — who in emergencies have few options and little bargaining power — are at risk of exposure to excessive charges."

Go deeper: Air ambulances are expensive and most likely out of network

Go deeper

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.