State Legislators discuss rural ambulance crisis


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Rural ambulance services are having trouble keeping the engines running. Crews get money based on the number of calls they go out to which is a problem for small communities. Wednesday, EMS personnel and advocates met with State Legislators to discuss the problem.

No lights and no sirens, the sound of silence seems like a good thing.

“Obviously if you’re not having a run, somebody’s healthy, no one’s hurt, but when that is sitting there and not operating then they’re not getting paid.” State Senator for District 15 Mark Johnson said.

In the State of Arkansas, 25 counties are having trouble keeping their ambulance service running.

“There are actually communities that are deciding whether they will have an ambulance service tomorrow or next week or next month,” Arkansas Ambulance Association’s Government Affairs Chairman Ken Kelley said.

According to Kelley, for those rural areas they don’t have the number of calls to support the service but that doesn’t mean it’s a service that’s not needed.

“Oh they’re actually the life blood of the community,” Kelley said.

One of the communities in the danger zone is Perry County.

“Now is the time we actually have to start seeking solutions,” Senator Johnson said.

Johnson says it comes down to funding.

“Medicaid reimbursement has been flat, has not had an increase in 25 years,” Johnson said.

In this hearing, State Legislators heard solutions to the growing problem.

“We’re in a critical situation but we’re rapidly moving to a crisis,” Kelley said.

One of the solutions discussed is the availability of an Upward Payment Limit program that’s similar to what nursing homes and hospitals have.

“We just need some help getting across the finish line,” Kelley said.

While this discussion barely scratched the surface, those EMS advocates are happy with what they heard.

“I think this was a great meeting today and we can’t thank them enough for hearing our issues and helping us find ways to address it,” Kelley said.

The State Legislature will start budget hearings in less than two weeks ahead of their fiscal session starting April 8th.

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