First responders fear future of rural ambulance services - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

First responders fear future of rural ambulance services

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Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are calling it a crisis when it comes to rural ambulance services and their bottom line. 

Brian Donaldson, Director of Sumner EMS (SEMS), said ambulance services are especially expensive in rural areas because of the lower call volume. He said sometimes, depending on the medical care needed and the mileage, an ambulance transport can cost upwards of $1,000.

And according to Donaldson, they lose a lot of money frequently.

"The State of Iowa has done a very poor job in taking an accurate assessment of the ambulance reimbursement fee schedule for Medicaid, and because of that, every agency is suffering financially when they transport a patient covered by Iowa Medicaid," he said.

Donaldson said it's frustrating because if SEMS transports a Medicaid patient, it's only reimbursed $115 out of the approximate $800 it costs to transport.

He said transporting Medicare patients is better, but they still don't break even with the cost.

According to Donaldson, 65 percent of patients transported by SEMS are either on Medicaid or Medicare, and another 5 percent are uninsured, leaving only 30 percent of transports completely reimbursed or paid for.

Donaldson said SEMS transported between 400-450 patients last year, but only made about 50 cents for every dollar.

"Personally I've worked closely with a number of legislators for the past two sessions, and we just haven't made a lot of headway in Des Moines," said Donaldson.

He said while his focus is always on patient care, it does frequently cross his mind whether SEMS will be able to provide ambulance transports into the future which is why he wants people to write their lawmakers and ask them to form a task force to study EMS in Iowa before rural ambulance services are forced to shut down.
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