To the editor:
Here is a case where public safety is paramount, and advocating for it properly is a joint effort among professionals in the field, our local legislators and the general public.
The current Senate version of the state’s FY 2014 budget shifts the rate-setting authority for emergency medical services from municipalities to a state-centralized authority that has a mandate to establish a standardized rate structure.
Though on the surface this appears to be a fiscally prudent step, it fails to address the overall cost impact of health care that can balloon when services are not applied properly. One of the cost factors could be caused by increased waiting times, which can create more serious medical conditions that expand costs later.
Chief Kevin Robinson, president of the Massachusetts Fire Chief’s Association sums it up with this recent statement: “We cannot stand by while insurance companies try to cut their own costs and undermine public safety. We are trying to prevent a situation where people who call 911 for emergency medical care have to wait longer for that ambulance to arrive.”
The central goal of the insurance companies is to slash reimbursements to “out-of-network” ambulance companies. This could expose patients to receiving bills for the excess over the standardized billed portion.
Rate-setting by municipalities cannot be standardized because there are variations in local needs based on factors such as availability of ambulance services, demographics, population and location (roads, streets, distances).
Simply put, cities and towns have varying needs that create a range of cost reimbursement factors. When a standardized approach is taken, there will inevitably be unreimbursed costs, and this will be shifted directly to taxpayers, either through their municipality or individually.
This is unacceptable. And equally unacceptable is the expectation that during a 911 call a person having an emergency needs to check if their local ambulance service is part of a health insurance network.
Citizens and local fire department leaders should contact their state senators and support House bill H.3917, Protect emergency medical services, which was recently voted on by the Joint Committee on Financial Services.
Board of Selectmen