New York state bill would allow fire departments to recoup EMS transport costs

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York State lawmakers will soon consider a bill that would allow fire departments in New York to bill people's insurance companies for EMS transport costs.

Fire departments by law are not allowed to bill insurance companies for emergency medical transport to a hospital. However volunteer ambulance services and private ambulance companies are allowed to bill people's insurance.

"We're just trying to alleviate that expense from the taxpayer and get it back to where it belongs - the insurance companies and the insurance programs that are out there that are able to pay for them that do pay everybody else," said Tom McDonough with the Firemen's Association of the State of New York.

The revenue would be used by fire departments to fund EMS training, pay for staffing during understaffed hours and upgrade medical transport equipment.

State Senator Elaine Phillips (R-Mineola) is co-sponsoring the bill. She said the majority of people already pay for EMS transport in their insurance.

"It's a double taxation for individuals. You and I are paying for it in our health insurance policy and we're paying for it in our tax bill," Phillips said.

Under the bill, fire departments would not be required to bill insurance companies but it would make the option available.

The bill is facing opposition from some ambulance associations who said it will force people living in upstate, rural New York to pay out-of-pocket for advanced life support transport. It's due to a Medicare stipulation put into effect decades ago which mandates if fire departments are allowed to bill Medicare, people in upstate New York will have to pay for advanced life support transport.
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