Health Care Act Changing EMS in Pennsylvania

Affordable Care Act causes some companies to shift how they deliver EMS


 
 

DEBBIE WYGENT, Intelligencer Journal/New Era | | Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Six months ago, southern Lancaster County residents breathed easier, knowing there would be two 24-hour advanced life support ambulances from Lancaster EMS stationed in the southern end.

On Monday, Quarryville residents heard that that agreement with local municipalities and Lancaster EMS still remains firm, even though the Affordable Care Act is forcing ambulance companies to shift how they deliver emergency care.

Bob May, executive director of Lancaster EMS, explained to Quarryville Borough officials and residents that most people view emergency medical services as a public safety issue.

"The reality is, we are health care," May said. "Changes in the health care system will dramatically change how we do business. We will have to adjust to the system."

May said ambulance companies are now being encouraged to send their paramedics into the community for preventive care, to get people healthier at home so they can stay at home. That's a "paradigm shift," May said.

He said ambulance companies, which traditionally have been paid to transport citizens to emergency rooms, are now going to be encouraged to "stack calls" based on emergency priority and to respond and give care, but not necessarily transport patients to the emergency room.

How ambulance companies are funded will have to change, and how that is going to happen is unclear.

May said Lancaster EMS is one of only two ambulance companies in the state now running a community paramedic program. He said their paramedics are working with a "mostly underprivileged" population in Lancaster city.

That program is not yet on tap for the southern end, and for now there will be no changes in ambulance coverage or service delivery there, May said.

Lancaster EMS agreed to place two advanced life support units in southern Lancaster County last July - one at the Walter Aument Family Health Center in Quarryville and one at 915 Lancaster Pike at the Buck.

This followed months of citizen complaints to southern end municipal officials about the lack of a 24-hour advanced life support ambulance and dialogue at meetings of the Southern Lancaster County Intermunicipal Council.

In obtaining endorsements from southern end municipalities, Lancaster EMS agreed not to approach municipalities for an EMS tax or funding.

It has been funding its service through grants, donations and a subscription drive, as well as direct fees paid by insurance companies and patients.

Since June, Lancaster EMS has answered 122 emergency calls in Quarryville. The calls were for accidents, chest pain, behavior problems, abdominal pain, seizures, an overdose and injuries.

Some municipalities, however, have contributed to the company, which is operating under a $9.2 million budget for 2013.

So far, municipal contributions, which are only 0.7 percent of total revenue, are: $25,000, City of Lancaster; $13,500, Lancaster Township; $2,000, East Lampeter Township; $1,000, Martic Township; $1,000, Millersville Borough; $2,500, West Lampeter Township; $6,000, Strasburg Borough; $2,500, Strasburg Township; $1,000, Colerain Township; and $2,000, Manor Township.

May said Lancaster EMS is now running a membership drive, but so far of 3,531 solicitations mailed in the southern end, only 521 were returned - a 14.8 percent response.

Lancaster EMS has 152 employees, 25 volunteers and nine stations, including the two in the southern end. Subscriptions range from $30 for a single senior citizen to $75 for a family. Information about its subscription drive is online at www.lemsa.com.
 

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