It's Subscription Time!
by Deborah Kulick, Bushkill Emergency Corps
It is that time again, Bushkill Emergency Corps subscription time. Until you have an emergency you really don’t appreciate how valuable simply thinking ahead and subscribing before something happens can make a big difference. The savings, especially in today’s healthcare climate can be considerable.
Recently I participated in the yearly Legislative Breakfast hosted by the Monroe County Ambulance Association. All local non-profit EMS services are members of the association, including Bushkill Emergency Corps. Don DeReamus, Legislative Chair for the Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania presented a program that addressed the current challenges EMS providers face today. DeReamus alerted those in attendance to the critical issues that are creating a crisis in EMS services.
First and foremost was the lack of sustainable funding for EMS services, not only locally, but across the state. The perfect storm of below cost reimbursements from all payers, the codified payments of Medicare as a result of the Affordable Care Act, high deductibles and co-pays that have now affected patient payments. He also noted that Medicare rates were never "designed" to represent fair reimbursement value.
The other most critical part of the EMS crisis, local, statewide and nationally is that of a serious shortage of EMS personnel. This has a direct impact on 911 EMS response as well as non-emergency transports and special event coverage. The whole atmosphere contributes to issues within the EMS industry such as inadequate pay rates, many providers working two, three and four jobs which of course results in fatigue issues.
All these issues combined with numerous times when an ambulance is requested and there is no reimbursement have resulted in new proposed legislation that would allow for billing and reimbursement for requests for service that result in treat and release calls.
To put everything in perspective, DeReamus explained the yearly cost of both basic (BLS) services and advanced life support (ALS/paramedic) services. A BLS unit staffed and running 24/7 for the year costs about $550,000 and an ALS unit staffed and running 24/7 costs $800,000 per year.
One bright spot for residents in our community is that each local non-profit offers a subscription program that helps when EMS services are needed. Unique to the area is that each service recognizes the subscription program of the others. For example, you subscribe to your primary provider, in this case, Bushkill Emergency Corps and the receive a 911 approved service from a mutual aid partner, your subscription program is applied to your billing.
For subscribers in Middle Smithfield, Lehman, most of Smithfield and the lower part of Price Townships the reciprocal mutual aid organizations are: Suburban EMS, Pocono Mountain Regional EMS, St. Luke's EMS and West End Ambulance Corps. The sad part he noted is that few residents take advantage of the programs. The funds from these programs help fund the service so when you dial 911 the are there when you need it.
For Bushkill Emergency Corps, recent yearly subscribers represent only about 5 percent of households receiving subscription forms take advantage of the program. Those who subscribe know that subscriptions are a big help, especially with the new rules in force with Medicare and Medicaid. Something to remember is that commercial insurance carriers often follow suit with these providers.
Check your mail for your subscription form. If you did not receive one, you can access the form by visiting the website: www.bushkillemergencycorps.com. If you need one mailed to you, simply leave your name and address on the Corps phone message system: 570-223-1906 or email a message to the office and one will be mailed to you. Thinking ahead now will be appreciated because, things happen.