Gov. Inslee, Legislature Helping Ambulance Companies With Costs
A bill in the state legislature would extend a program that helps ambulance companies compensate for low fees they collect for hauling Medicaid patients.
Washington Ambulance Association President Mike Battis says the Medicaid reimbursement rate for ambulance trips hasn't been adjusted since 2004.
"It's $115 is what two EMT get reimbursed for," said Battis. "That's what the agency gets reimbursed for. That does not even cover our operating costs."
The bill in the legislature would extend the current program through 2028. It's passed the Senate, and now heads to the House.
The measure was first passed in 2020. It set up a program that all of the state’s private ambulance agencies were mandated to take part in.
It requires those agencies to tax themselves, with the tax money collected being put into a pool. The tax money pool is then is leveraged against federal funds to draw down a greater reimbursement rate for emergency Medicaid calls.
The program effectively doubles the reimbursement rate ambulance companies receive when answering emergency calls for Medicaid patients.
In addition to the bill in the legislature, Battis says Governor Jay Inslee now has a plan for helping ambulance companies with non-emergency Medicaid calls.
"The governor put into his budget request to increase the Medicaid reimbursement for ground ambulances on non-emergent transport," Battis said.
Non-emergency calls take place when ambulances haul patients on scheduled trips, typically between two different hospitals or health care providers.
The Medicaid non-emergency reimbursement rate is currently so low that one of the largest ambulance companies in the world, Falck, recently pulled out of Washington state.
About 70-80 percent of calls handled by Washington ambulance agencies involve Medicaid or Medicare patients.
Battis says the Washington Ambulance Association represents about 30 ambulance agencies statewide.
In addition to presiding over the Association as president, Battis is a longtime employee of Ballard Ambulance in Wenatchee.