Ambulance services bearing brunt of declining reimbursements

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(Host) The president of the Vermont Ambulance Association says towns are bearing the brunt of decreasing  reimbursements for emergency medical services.

Association president Jim Finger says Medicare and Medicaid only pay a fraction of what ambulance services really cost.

(Finger) It’s apparent that funding is going down  from the federal level as well as Medicaid has not kept up at all  at 30 cents on the dollar… So that’s all starting to   pile up where you’re hearing from services all over that their costs are going up but their funds aren’t going up so they’re having to go to their towns for more funding.

(Host) Finger says  escalating fuel and insurance costs are partly to blame. Other factors are a shortage of volunteers — who subsidize services with their time — as well as an aging population that uses more emergency or EMS services.

Finger says assessments to towns for EMS services have doubled and even tripled in some cases. He says Vermont’s congressional delegation is working on a bill to raise Medicare reimbursements.

On the state level, Vernon Representative Patti O’Donnell has introduced several bills. One would set up a state matching fund for ambulances and improved facilities.

Another would allow EMS services to bill insurers, including Medicaid, even if the patient doesn’t go to the hospital.

(O’Donnell) Say I’m having some kind of diabetic problem. They can come to my house, deliver medication, get me stabilized and I can turn around and say I  don’t want to be transported and that service doesn’t  recoup any of its costs  That to me, you know how can you do business when you’re providing services and not getting paid.

(Host) O’Donnell and Finger both say increasing the amount Vermont pays for Medicaid services would do the most to balance the equation. O’Donnell says all Vermonters pay more for health care because of the state’s low Medicaid reimbursement rates.

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