BCBSMA offers indirect payments to ambulance providers

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is now writing checks to patients for the cost of their ambulance ride. So instead of paying for ambulance services provided by out-of-network companies, the insurer's new policy makes ambulance companies seek out patients to collect their money, reports the Boston Globe.

Blue Cross argues that the indirect payments will entice ambulance companies to sign contracts, lowering rates for ambulance services and controlling healthcare costs. But several state officials reject that argument, claiming the policy could force cities and towns to decide whether to sue their own residents to collect unpaid ambulance bills.

Instead, municipal officials and fire chiefs from around Massachusetts urged support for a plan filed by state Rep. James Cantwell that would force insurers to pay ambulance companies directly for the cost of emergency services. The proposal would also limit the cost of an ambulance ride to the ambulance providers' customary rate or a rate established by the governing body of a municipality, whichever is lower. In addition, insurers would still be able to pay indirectly for nonemergency services," notes the Globe.

Blue Cross and several business groups are asking lawmakers to reject Cantwell's proposal because it would permit ambulance companies to charge exorbitant rates for the cost of their services and potentially incentivize ambulance providers to abandon insurers' networks, establishing a dangerous precedent that other providers may follow.

To learn more:
- read the Boston Globe article

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