New law eliminates “balance billing” for Travis County STARFlight

A new law eliminates "balance billing" for Travis County STAR Flight and other publicly funded air and ground ambulance services.

Senate Bill 790 went into effect September 1. First responders with Travis County STAR Flight, a public safety air rescue program, have called to eliminate balance billing for years.

"As far as our flight is concerned, our constituents pay their taxes, they pay their health care plan bills -- and so they don't need to see a bill from star flight. They've already paid for this service. And so while we will bill health care plans for the appropriate amount, our goal is to not have our patients. Our rescue victims see any bill from us. That's our intent." explained Eric Ullman, chief clinical supervisor of STAR Flight. 

He added "it made us feel like we were selling something instead of treating patients. And that's something that I didn't get into this business for."

According to Ullman, STAR Flight medical air transport bills average about $17,000. Whereas medical air transport in the private sector average about $47,000.

"We've been dispatched out to a few scenes to where we'll get there and the patients… they can barely breathe or… they're bleeding out or something like that. And they are saying, ‘absolutely I'm not going to be flown by helicopter.’" said Flight Paramedic Patrick Brennan. He added, "they're unfortunately laying on their deathbed or something like that, they see a helicopter land and they see a flight crew hop up in the back of an ambulance. And they're just thinking about, you know, "if I come through this… this is going to ruin me or it's going to ruin my family."
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