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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Causer Announces Meeting to Discuss Emergency Facing Area Ambulance Services

Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint)
PORT ALLEGANY – With area ambulance services struggling with limited personnel and limited finances, Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) is inviting ambulance service personnel, county and local officials, and members of the community to a public meeting to discuss the problem and possible solutions.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, at the Port Allegany Fire Department, 65 West Maple St.

“Our ambulance services provide vital, life-saving care to people in need, and we cannot afford to lose them,” Causer said. “But there is a very real chance that could happen if we don’t take steps to address these challenges.

“The organizations we rely upon to help us in the case of an emergency are facing an emergency of their own. It’s our turn to respond to their call for help,” he added.

Ambulance companies throughout the Commonwealth have been struggling for years with a dwindling number of volunteers. As a result, some companies have had to hire paid staff to ensure someone is available to answer emergency calls, and that has placed a heavy financial burden on the companies.

“Part of the problem with recruiting volunteers is the time and commitment it requires of them. But another part of it is the need for more local training opportunities at a reasonable cost to prepare people for what is a very important and rewarding opportunity to serve our community,” said Causer, who volunteered for the Port Allegany Ambulance Service for many years.

On the financial side, Causer said there are a number of factors contributing to the problem, including low reimbursements from Medicaid programs and the failure of patients to pass payments from their insurance companies on to the ambulance companies, as they are required to do by law. Ambulance companies may use third-party bill collectors in an attempt to get the money they are due, but that is a costly and time-consuming process.

“The state House has voted more than once to require insurance companies to send payments directly to ambulance companies, but the insurance industry has fought hard against the bill,” Causer said. “However, with more and more ambulance companies struggling to survive and continue their life-saving mission, the pressure is building to get this bill signed into law.”

House Bill 347, which requires direct pay by insurance companies to ambulance services, passed the House unanimously in June and is awaiting action in the Senate.

The General Assembly is also considering legislation to require emergency medical services agencies to be reimbursed for services provided, even if transport to a hospital does not take place. Current, that is not eligible for reimbursement. This bill also passed the House unanimously in June and is awaiting action in the Senate.

“Ensuring our area ambulance services remain in operation is a major public health issue, and it affects everyone. You never know when you might be the one in need of an ambulance, but you want to know it’ll be there when you do,” Causer said. “I hope residents will join us for this important discussion.”

Anyone with questions is encouraged to contact Causer’s offices in Bradford (814-362-4400); Coudersport (814-279-9769); or Kane (814-837-0880).

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