By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA - In an effort to control prices on air ambulance rides in Montana, lawmakers are considering urging Congress to revise the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.

Senate Joint Resolution 13 resulted from an interim committee’s study that found prices for air ambulance services in the state were leaving patients bankrupt.

Sen. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, is the sponsor of the resolution. During testimony on a different piece of legislation heard earlier in the session, Facey explained why the 1978 federal law is a problem.

“Because no matter what you do with rates or shares, you can go to court and say, ‘Hey, Airline Deregulation Act says you can’t do this,’” Facey said.

Senate Bill 44, which passed second reading in the Senate earlier this month, is an effort by the legislature effort to place some regulations on the air ambulance in the state.  

Facey said the bill aims to work around the 1978 act in order to ease the payments for a ride in an air ambulance.

“So again, many times the hospital does have time to look around and shop, but sometimes the consumer is on the hook,” Facey said.

The resolution looks to eliminate having to work around the 1978 act. It hopes to revise laws so there can be some control on the prices air ambulances charge per ride.

The Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee will hear testimony on the Joint Resolution Thursday.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.