W.Va. ambulance services to get 10% increase in ground transportation rates
"We're very happy about it as you can imagine, fuel costs being what they are right now," said Executive Director Stacey Hicks of the Princeton Rescue Squad
By Greg Jordan
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON, W.Va. — An increase in state funding will help local rescue squads and others across West Virginia cope with high fuel prices from inflation and continuing expenses linked to the COVID pandemic.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Medical Services announced Wednesday that a 10 percent increase in ambulance ground transportation rates will provide more than 200 West Virginia ambulance providers with $11.8 million in additional reimbursements per fiscal year.
Executive Director Stacey Hicks of the Princeton Rescue Squad said the increase is good news.
"We're very happy about it as you can imagine, fuel costs being what they are right now," Hicks said after the DHHR announcement. "Our fuel costs this time two years ago was $10,000 a month. This past month was $23,000. It's almost doubled in the last couple of years, so this increase in the pay is going to help us tremendously.
The increased funding is from Medicaid services, so it does come through the state, Hicks said.
"It won't change what the patients pay," Hicks stated.
Besides fuel, rescue squads have seen increases in other expenses.
"Especially with COVID, all of our expenses went way up for medical supplies," Hicks said. "We're having to wear all the protective gear and that costs a lot of money, so that (state increase) helps offset some of the costs. Now we're also fighting the RSV (a respiratory infection) that normally affects children, but now it's affecting adults, too. Normally in years past it would be predominantly children. Now seeing a lot of adults with it as well."
Effective Wednesday and retroactively beginning July 1, West Virginia's ambulance rate will now be paid at the same rate as Medicare, DHHR officials said. This is the maximum rate that Medicaid is allowed to pay by statute. Reimbursement is the same for both governmental and private providers.
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DHHR's Bureau for Medical Services submitted the State Plan Amendment on Sept. 8, and the amendment was approved by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Nov. 9.
"We have so much gratitude for West Virginia's ambulance and emergency medical services workers, especially during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting stress on the state's health care system," said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary. "Together with Gov. Justice, we requested this increase because these funds are critical to our local ambulance services, many of which operate in rural areas where access to healthcare is limited. I am proud to make this announcement today because I know how much it will mean for all our EMS workers, and all the West Virginians who rely on them to respond when they're needed most."
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