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EMSA Exec Asks House Panel to Extend Medicare Payments

WASHINGTON - Emergency Medical Services Authority President Stephen Williamson implored a key House panel Wednesday to extend Medicare provider payments that are scheduled to expire later this year for ambulance services. Without that relief, Williamson warned, the providers that sometimes deliver the only emergency medical care to certain areas, especially those in rural parts of the country, will be forced to cut back on the number of ambulance crews, scale back service areas or even discontinue service altogether. "Ambulance service providers respond to medical emergencies and provide health care to patients regardless of their ability to pay," he told the House Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on health.

"When there is an accident at home and a loved one is in need of medical care, we know to dial 911 and an ambulance will be on its way." EMSA serves more than 1.1 million residents in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and surrounding areas, but Williamson appeared before the House panel as president of the American Ambulance Association, a national trade group for providers of emergency and non-emergency ambulance services. He was one of several witnesses to testify before the panel, most of whom also expressed support for the payments to continue. Subcommittee Chairman Wally Herger, R-Calif., expressed hope the hearing could help set the stage for more review. "This hearing offers us, and more importantly the American people, a chance to consider whether Congress should spend more than $2 billion to reauthorize these additional payments for another year," Herger said in his opening remarks. Just because Congress must act, he said, does not mean it should do so blindly. Herger also cited the financial woes the Medicare program already faces and added that Congress must show fiscal responsibility. "We simply cannot afford to continue spending money we do not have, in a program that is going bankrupt," he said.

Jim Myers 202-484-1424 jim.myers@tulsaworld.com

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