CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state is increasing reimbursement rates for ambulances that carry Medicaid patients.
Gov. Jim Justice announced the 10% increase Tuesday. The state Department of Health and Human Resources will finalize the details.
It’s a welcomed move for ambulances services across the state that have been struggling with the impact of the pandemic.
“The governor’s response to this crisis in EMS is unprecedented, we’ve never had a governor respond is this manner,” Chris Hall, West Virginia EMS Coalition Executive Director said. “First, last week the EMS initiative to help recruit and educate EMS workers and now this proposal to increase the reimbursement rate paid by Medicaid.”
It’s anticipated the reimbursement increase will generate $11.8 million in increased payments to more than 200 EMS organizations.
Funding for EMS services has been in crisis since the beginning of the pandemic. Raw data from the DHHR reports from 2019 to 2021 the state lost more than 1,600 EMTs and 258 paramedics, or about 30 percent of statewide services. The losses are not directly attributed to funding, but the problem has attention of the governor.
In addition to the training program, part of the $10 million in American Rescue Plan money earmarked for EMS has been spent for five mobile training units that can help regions throughout the state keep up with training, certifications and testing.
Hall said the reimbursement rate increase will be welcomed boost.
“This is substantial because it’s really one of the few sources of revenue that EMS agencies services have available to fund their services,” Hall said.
Police and fire departments are funded by municipalities, but ambulance services rely on fees, levies, or local fund raising events. EMS training and equipment is still as technical and vital as those in traditionally funded services.
“It’s a non-profit entity that receives very little or no government funding,” Hall said. “So, when you get these increases in reimbursement for services provided it is absolutely essential.
According to Hall, local EMS services will not be on sound financial footing until communities take ownership and understand the importance of the service they provide. In short, the state cannot be the only or final answer to the problem.
“I think you’ve seen a number of counties across the state step up with levies or EMS fees and I think the next step is to get more counties to do the same and provide that local support for EMS,” Hall said.
The reimbursement rate increase is expected to take effect on July 1.