Monroe County Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Steve Hudson testified before the Florida Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and the Florida House Health Market Reform Subcommittee on Jan. 21 regarding legislation aimed to protect Floridians from the practice of balance billing by private air ambulance companies. Trauma Star is the County’s joint operation with Monroe County Sheriff’s Office that transports critically injured patients to the mainland via one of three specialty outfitted helicopters. The program has been recognized by the State of Florida and the Federal Aviation Administration for its professionalism and full compliance with regulatory standards.
Hudson discussed the incredible successes of the Trauma Star program following a 2008 County referendum brought forward to thwart private air ambulance companies from charging exorbitant fees for Florida Keys to the mainland transfers, nearly three times the amount Trauma Star charged.
County officials attempted to negotiate with the private companies without success. In addition, the private companies deployed aggressive tactics causing financial hardships for residents recovering from emergencies.
“Monroe County saw a critical need to provide life-saving services to our residents and visitors,” said Hudson. “We had to take definitive and decisive actions to replace private air ambulance companies that were gouging patients.”
Today, Trauma Star continues to operate without charging residents out-of-pocket costs and still costs non-residents 1/3 the cost of private companies. Monroe County Fire Rescue supported the legislation and efforts of the bill sponsor to stop predatory and excessive balance billing of patients. The bill passed through both committees.