Many of us take for granted that calling 911 will result in the safe and fast transport of patients in an emergency. But there are many components at work that help to ensure ambulance service for the public. One is state funding. This year, the Governor proposes to cut approximately $23 million in funding for ambulance providers. This cut, if enacted, will have a negative impact on emergency care across the state and could mean poorer health outcomes for individuals and more costs for municipalities. I am pushing back on the cut in hopes to preserve the service that ambulances provide particularly for our rural communities.
Medicaid, the state’s health insurance plan for low-income individuals and families, has traditionally reimbursed ambulance providers at about a third of the actual cost of the service. While costs for ambulance care has increased, state support has remained flat and this year’s budget would reduce it further. Providers have contacted me and shared their concerns about the impact this proposed reduction will have. They worry further cuts will put them in financial jeopardy, force them to cut down on ambulances, delay ambulance response time, and cause more volunteer ambulance providers to close. Over the long term, the cuts will result in a cost shift to localities that must, according to law, provide access to ambulance service for their residents. If localities have to pay more to secure the contracts because of this loss of state funding, this has the potential to be a tremendous cost shift to local taxpayers.
Without adequate funding, the public's health is at risk. When a 911 call is placed and it is determined an ambulance is needed, emergency medics must respond. Sometimes municipal agreements require ambulances to respond within a certain timeframe such as an average response time of under 10 minutes after receiving the 911 call. In order to meet that criteria, ambulance providers must have medics, drivers, medications and other provisions ready to go at a moment’s notice. Obviously, there is significant investment that is needed to ensure this service and fewer ambulances and medics means that response time would be prolonged.
The proposed cut has the potential to disproportionately affect low-income communities and the ambulance providers that service them. I am particularly concerned about our region which has a large population serviced by Medicaid. Seconds count in these emergency situations and fewer ambulances would put lives at risk. I will continue to push back on this proposed cut. If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.