MMA letter to conference committee to protect local ambulance fee-setting and block pay-the-patient

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The Honorable Aaron M. Michlewitz, House Chair
The Honorable James B. Eldridge, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Financial Services
State House, Room 254, Boston
 
Dear Chairman Michlewitz, Chairman Eldridge, and Members of the Committee,
 
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association would like to offer comments on H. 499, relative to the use and payment of ambulance services. We strongly support this bill and believe it will protect cities and towns from incurring excessive costs associated with changes in reimbursement and rate setting for emergency ambulance services.
 
H. 499 takes two key steps to protect the system that is currently fair and efficient for payment of ambulance services. First, the bill would prevent the practice of “pay the patient,” which undermines the abilities of cities and towns to fund and operate responsive and efficient ambulance services that are at the core of emergency medical services in Massachusetts. “Pay the patient” would force communities to pursue residents and non-residents to recoup thousands of dollars in ambulance expenses, a process that is inefficient and subject to abuse.
 
Second, the legislation would allow municipalities to set a fair rate for ambulance services. Cities and towns set fees and charges for a wide variety of municipal services, very strictly limited by state law to the cost of providing the service. This is the same rule that applies to rate setting for emergency ambulance services, ensuring that rates are reasonable. This bill would prevent insurance companies from shifting existing ambulance costs onto the local property tax, which is the certain result if insurers are allowed to provide below-cost reimbursements.
 
H. 499 would protect municipal EMS services by: 1) allowing cities and towns to set a fair rate for ambulance services; and 2) ensuring that municipalities can promptly and efficiently collect these fees, without which communities could not provide this life-saving service. We urge your swift and favorable action in favor of this important legislation.
 
Thank you very much for your interest in this matter. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Nicholas Downing at (617) 426-7272 at any time.
 
Sincerely,
 
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO