The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 302 Division B) was passed by the House by a vote of 398 to 23 on September 26. The bill will authorize FAA funding and programs until 2023. The version that House passed incorporated several compromises that legislators believed would allow it to pass both the House and Senate.
Notably, the language would reauthorize the National Transportation Safety Board and the Transportation Security Administration and would expand oversight of the Next Generation (NextGen) technology upgrade program.
During these House and Senate negotiations, ACCT strongly urged Senate committee leadership to include Sections 412 and 413 of the House-passed FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4), which, among other things, included crucial language that would remove non-air transportation services of air ambulance operators from oversight under the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), introducing an important consumer protection that would help prevent high consumer costs, or “balance billing,” by allowing states to regulate the rates and services of air ambulance providers.
While this specific language was not ultimately included in the final negotiated package, slightly modified language from Sections 412 and 413 was added to the final compromise package, including the authorization of an Advisory Committee on Air Ambulance and Patient Billing that would make recommendations with respect to disclosing charges and fees for air ambulance services and the prevention of balance billing. A report by the Advisory Committee would also inform future rulemaking to discuss data reporting, transparency, and the development of further protections for air ambulance customers. These provisions, while altered, represent a significant first step toward greater transparency and patient protections in the air ambulance industry. In addition, the FAA reauthorization bill also includes provisions for the submission of complaints by air ambulance customers as well as a report to Congress on air ambulance oversight.
The Senate gave final approval to the reauthorization bill on October 3 by a 93-6 vote. The President signed the bill on October 5, marking the first long-term reauthorization for the agency since late 2015 and its longest since 1982.