Calhoun And Kalamazoo Area Ambulance Services On A Tightrope
State lawmakers are looking into some ways to help bolster Michigan’s ambulance services. Leaders of several are testifying before state house and senate committees and saying they are in dire straits. A couple are going so far as to warn they are close to being forced to shut down.
LifeCare Ambulance Vice President and Calhoun County Board Chair Steve Frisbee says it isn’t just a few ambulance services running a tight line and with reduced staff levels. He tells WBCK every single one is running into problems.
Frisbee says one of the big issues is the level of reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. A majority of people needing ambulance transport are covered by one or the other. Frisbee says there has been no base rate raise for Medicaid coverages in 20 years. Most ambulance services are reimbursed by Medicaid to the tune of less than $0.20 for every dollar billed. It's about $0. 30 for Medicare.
The Michigan Association of Ambulance Services says in many cases, the reimbursement level is as low as $0.10 on the dollar. One of the sidebar effects is that ambulance services can't pay paramedics and EMS professionals the kind of wages they should have. Many are leaving the industry.
Steve Frisbee tells us, “Every ambulance provider in the state is very short-staffed. It’s why I’ve been working as a paramedic much, much more.”
Fox 17 reports that in testimony to a state legislative committee, Jeff White, Chief of EMS of Richmond Lenox EMS Ambulance told legislators, "Today, there are no more medics in the pipeline. There is almost no one left for our agencies to hire. As we sit here, EMS agencies are unable to find enough paramedics to serve your communities. This has resulted in working our local heroes still on the job to the point of exhaustion."
Leaders of several EMS operations are telling state legislators as much as $10 million is needed immediately to keep the state’s EMS businesses up and running.