The United New York Ambulance Network and local first responders are standing up against a recent state bill they believe would limit access to reliable emergency medical services.
The legislation, which passed the Senate on June 14, would allow volunteer fire districts to bill for emergency medical services. New York is the only state in the union which still prohibits this, but the network argues a change will only cause harm to the ambulance industry.
“New York State volunteer fire districts are supported by taxpayer dollars, but this proposal would effectively ask taxpayers to pay again for the services that they already paid for through their property taxes,” according to a news release from the network.
The legislation would also impact rural communities, such as the north country, that rely on private-public parnerships between volunteer fire district EMS providers and commercial providers for advanced life support interventions, the network stated.
The bill would leave patients to front the bill for an ambulance transport of more than $500.
Ann M. Smith, program director for the North Country Regional EMS Agency, said providers are now worried residents will stop calling for an ambulance.
“You are taking an elderly person who is on a fixed income and would now have to pay out of pocket,” Ms. Smith said. “In turn, they won’t call the ambulance when they truly need it. That’s our biggest fear.”
Bruce G. Wright, president and CEO of Guilfoyle Ambulance Service, said billing the patient’s insurance is the company’s primary source of revenue. If this legislation goes into effect, the service would have to rely on the patients for its main source of income.
“This is not a free business; there are tremendous costs that are associated with this business,” Mr. Wright said. “It’s heartbreaking that the people who were major contributors to our area and way of life, who now are on Medicare, will get a full-shot bill.”
In this fear, Mr. Wright said he and other first responders tried to cut the bill off before it passed. Now, it’s just a matter of making sure their voices are heard so it doesn’t become law.
“It’s not going to benefit the north country, it’s going to hurt us, and it’s going to hurt the whole state,” Mr. Wright said.