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New legislation aims to help EMS agencies by increasing Medicaid reimbursements

EMS agencies have been in a financial crisis for years. Now inflation and record high gas prices are putting an even deeper strain on these lifesaving services.

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — When you dial 911, you expect an ambulance to be on its way.

“The reality is, we’re struggling every day to meet those expectations because of funding issues," said Donald Kunst, director of Susquehanna Township EMS in Dauphin County.

For agencies like Susquehanna Township EMS, that financial crisis is only getting worse.

They can’t turn patients away and if they transport someone with Medicaid, the reimbursements don’t cut it.

“In today’s environment, at $6.00 a gallon and a 30-gallon tank in one of my ambulances, that’s $180," explained Kunst. "Before we fill up that truck, in a way, we’re almost potentially losing money.”

State Representative Martin Causer of McKean, Potter, and Cameron Counties, is one of several Pennsylvania lawmakers hoping a new piece of bipartisan legislation will help.

“We’ve only increased Medicaid reimbursements for them twice in 20 years," said Rep. Causer. "The last time was in 2018 and I sponsored legislation then.”

House Bill 2434 would increase Medicaid reimbursements for both basic and advanced life support services.

It would give a ten percent premium for "super rural" areas as well.

These regions are designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

The bill would also boost reimbursements for mileage.

Currently EMS agencies are only paid back $2.00 per mile and they have to travel at least 20 miles before that happens.

“My legislation would require them to be reimbursed for every loaded mile they transport a patient at a rate of $4.00 a mile which would help them significantly," said Rep. Causer.

Kunst applauds the proposal and hopes to see it pass.

But he says more needs to be done.

“When we’ve seen cost increases go up four times in the last year and there’s things we can’t even get to provide service to you, that is a major problem," said Kunst.

House Bill 2434 was unanimously voted out of committee and is now under consideration in the House. 

Rep. Causer hopes it will be considered as part of the state budget process this month.

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