Emergency service squads facing funding loss - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Emergency service squads facing funding loss

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Representing 30 to 40 ambulance squads across the state, statewide emergency service providers showed up for a rally at the State Capitol building Monday afternoon.

Officials said they were hoping to generate the attention of the administration. The Bureau for Medical Services proposed a state plan amendment that would allow it to contract with a transportation broker to handle non-emergency medical transportation services. The request for proposals issued in connection to that proposal raises several concerns about delivery times, potential denial of services and ability of one broker to handle the entire state.

Those involved in the rally said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is advocating a proposal put forth by Medicaid to enable the private transport of non-emergency patients to be handled privately through ambulance brokers.

Chris Hall, executive director of the West Virginia EMS Coalition, said ambulance services wanted to organize the rally to show lawmakers the state's squads are opposed to establishing a Medicaid transportation brokerage for non-emergency medical transportation including ambulance services.

"The concern we're having is (the) last legislative session (Tomblin) proposed a bill to allow this to happen," Hall said. "Ambulance squads have no other source of revenue."

Hall said if the proposal is considered, outlying counties could see longer response times in emergency situations.

"There aren't enough 911 calls to keep ambulance stations," Hall said of outlying areas. "(Services) don't have the ability to do non-emergency trips to generate revenue to support that."

Hall said about 75 percent of Medicaid's non-emergency calls can be attributed to people who transport family members and friends to medical appointments. He said within that group is where improper billing occurs.

The bureau's proposal is to include emergency medical services among transportation providers whose non-emergency services would be managed by one broker.

Ambulance services across the state are worried about the proposed legislation.

For example, the Clendenin station of the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority serves a 144-square mile rural area with almost 6,000 residents. Yearly operating costs for the service are almost $409,000 with revenue generated from both emergency and non-emergency calls at about $321,000 a year. KCEAA receives some local levy funds shared with local mass transit services, fire and police departments.

Jan-Care Ambulance Service, which provides emergency and non-emergency services, operates in a 3,000-square mile area of Nicholas, Fayette, Raleigh, Wyoming and McDowell counties and are also concerned they will no longer be able to serve rural EMS stations if a broker is brought in.

Hall said the proposal by the ambulance coalition would hurt some fire departments currently responding to emergency medical calls by getting rid of that source of revenue for their departments. However, he said with the change more people would be affected by lengthening the response time to emergency calls.