According to Marshfield’s Fire Chief Kevin Robinson, after he and other chiefs across the state received a letter from the insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield explaining that public providers must accept their ambulance rate or collect payments from patients themselves, the Protect EMS Coalition was formed.
For years, fire chiefs across the state have pushed against insurance companies setting rates.
But Robinson says a new bill filed by the coalition called Ambulance Payment Reform puts the power in the hands of the people who understand each community the best, “Local officials set a tax rate every year and they decide if we’re going to have a single tax rate or are we going to have a residential and business one. So there’s a variety of decisions made on fees being charged to their constituents being made by local officials throughout the year, why would ambulance fees be different?”
Rates set by insurance companies tend to be lower than the cost of the service which shorts the provider, says Robinson.
But if the provider isn’t full reimbursed, each town’s fire department will be forced to cut other costs.
“The budget has to be reduced, find a place to reduce it. Either I reduce the supply budget or I reduce personnel. So if I have to reduce those costs because our revenue is less, if you’re the patient that’s waiting twenty minutes for the ambulance to get there, your condition could get worse,” says the Marshfield Fire Chief
But he believes the reform bill helps everyone including the patient, “If we say the rate is $1,200 and for some rare circumstance we had an ambulance company come in and charge higher than that, the person is only responsible for the Marshfield rate.”
He notes that each town’s ambulance rate will be different because it will be based on affordability and quality of service.
The legislation, which has already been passed by the House and Senate, is waiting to be signed into law. The Governor has until next week.