Increased funds on the way for W.Va. ambulance providers

Increased funds for W.Va. ambulance providers
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 5:35 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Help is on the way for more than 200 ambulance providers across West Virginia, thanks to a 10% increase in state Medicaid reimbursements.

The move will inject nearly $250,000 a year into the Kanawha County system. That’s extra money for hiring, training, equipment and medications, according to Monica Mason, executive director of the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority.

“We’re in a readiness state all the time,” she said. “Twenty-four seven, 365 days a year, we have to have staff and equipment that is ready to answer that next call and these funds for us, at Kanawha County Ambulance, will be very helpful.”

Gov. Jim Justice, R-W.Va., and his administration announced the move Wednesday.

Mason said it marks the first Medicaid reimbursement increase since 2020. She recalled that was a 10% adjustment, as well, and it was the first increase in many years.

This year’s increase is retroactive to July 1. It will provide nearly $12 million a year to ambulance operators statewide.

“That’s an $11.8 million influx into the industry,” said Secretary Bill Crouch of the state Department of Health and Human Resources. “We really support those folks and what they do. They’re some of our local heroes throughout the state.”

The Secretary acknowledged EMS providers face many issues, and he said the new rate is the highest allowed by law.

Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry estimates his agency will receive an additional $300,000, but he joined his Kanawha County counterpart in putting the extra money in perspective.

“The cost of readiness to have staff available, to have equipment and medications available, those costs continue to rise,” Mason said. “So we have to keep up with that pace.”

Mason and Merry report a significant increase in those costs since the pandemic, and both said the increased costs eclipse what the agencies will receive from the Medicaid adjustment.

Given that Medicaid is a form of public assistance, Merry said the change should have no impact on how much the patient pays for an ambulance. Instead, it will affect how much the ambulance operator can bill Medicaid.