Low Medicaid, Medicare reimbursements hurt ambulance squads nati - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Low Medicaid, Medicare reimbursements hurt ambulance squads nationwide

Emergency situations call for emergency responders and ambulances to show up on scene. But, emergency medical services around the country are being threatened because there's no set funding mechanism for volunteer squads.

"I think within a thousand miles, you can drive anywhere, and you'd have the same problem," Clark Huntley with the Emerson, Nebraska Fire Department said.

Many first responders said Medicaid and Medicare fees have been steadily dropping.

"This has been going on for about 6 or 7 years, it just keeps going down. The services that are provided are not being equitably reimbursed," Firefighter Paramedic for Disaster and Emergency Services  in Woodbury County and Danbury, Oto, and Anthon, IA Ambulance Volunteer  Bob Welte said.

EMS Billing Services, Inc. said for a "basic life response," which deploys basic trained EMTs, ambulance fees average about $550. Iowa gets reimbursed about $332 from Medicare, Nebraska gets about $336, and South Dakota receives $360.

And, when it comes to this kind of transport for Medicaid patients, Iowa is reimbursed about $70, Nebraska gets about $160, and South Dakota receives about $94.

Along with these base costs, first responder crews are reimbursed a small amount per mile they travel from Medicaid.

Medicaid reimburses Iowa $2.16 per mile, Nebraska $5.35 per mile, South Dakota $2.75.

"Mileage is put in to play to offset cost of ambulance service. The costs are so astronomical that the costs of Medicare and Medicaid doesn't break even in the transport," EMS Billing Services, Inc. CEO Leslie Vaughn said.

The government mandates that the gap between what they're billing for and what they get paid must be written off and this lost money is hurting squads, who end up relying more on donations and local governments.

"We actually need to have a funding mechanism for EMS. Nobody wants to have their taxes raised. I don't want to have my taxes raised, but this is something we're obligated to provide," Welte said.

"They're trying to solicit the local law people to get involved to figure out how they're going to fund this," Huntley said.

And, without a solution, emergency responders said lives are in danger because if more ambulance crews disband, surrounding communities must pick up the slack and the wait times may go up. And, in emergency situation, every minute counts.
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