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N.Y. EMS Agencies Concerned Over State Budget Cut Proposal

Syracuse Media Group, N.Y.

Ambulance companies across the state say they will have to scale back services if cuts in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget are approved.

A group representing commercial ambulance companies estimates its members will lose $14 million a year under a state proposal that would eliminate Medicaid payments for low-income and elderly patients insured by both Medicare and Medicaid.

Medicare currently pays 80 percent of these patients' ambulance bills while Medicaid picks up 20 percent. The proposed budget would eliminate the Medicaid payments.

"We are scared because this is going to mean longer wait times in hospitals," said Trish Hansen, manager of TLC EMS in Cortland and secretary of United New York Ambulance Network, which represents the state's commercial ambulance companies.

Officials of Onondaga County ambulance companies expected to discuss the issue at an 11 a.m. news conference today in Syracuse.

A 2017 state Health Department report showed ambulance providers are substantially short-changed by Medicaid and recommended rate increases of $31.4 million. The state subsequently began gradually phasing in Medicaid rate increases for ambulance providers.

But Hansen said those increases will not offset the $14 million ambulance companies stand to lose serving patients eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

"Ambulance providers are concerned we won't be able to put as many ambulances on the road," she said.

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