As a municipal-led initiative, it’s critical that our community is informed about the proposed regional Emergency Services Authority. Frequently asked questions are listed below.
You would pay an annual fee on par with today’s Northwest EMS subscription rates (between $70-$85), or your municipality would pay the authority (depending on your municipality’s arrangement with the authority). Actual fees would be determined once the authority is incorporated.
Municipal residents would not receive residual bills if their insurance pays toward an ambulance bill. Residents would receive 50% off their ambulance bill if they have no insurance or if their entire ambulance bill went toward their insurance deductible.
State law requires that Pennsylvania municipalities ensure that EMS services are provided to their residents. If a municipality chooses not to participate with the new regional authority, it will have to find another way to fulfill its obligation to provide EMS services, including financing and operating such services.
Step 1: Municipalities confirm intent/interest to join the authority (June/July 2022).
Step 2: Municipalities host a Public Hearing on the proposed incorporation of an Authority (August 31, 2022).
Step 3: Municipalities consider enacting authority incorporation ordinances following public meeting (September/October 2022).
Step 4: First meeting of the newly formed authority held (November 2022).
Step 5: Public meeting held on the authority’s services and fees (February 2023).
Step 6: The authority begins providing services (Fall 2023).
The proposed municipal authority would operate in a similar fashion as a water or sewer authority. All authority board meetings would be advertised public meetings in which the public would be welcome and encouraged to attend. Budgets, capital expenditures and significant operational decisions, etc. would all be discussed and approved in public meetings. Additionally, any changes to the services and/or fee charged to the property owners would also require a separate public hearing.
The municipal group has been using the current NWEMS budget as a baseline along with building in certain assumptions based on future costs over the next several years. These assumptions have been somewhat challenging given the current inflationary trend in our economy. The average annual expenses range between $5.5-6.2M over the next few years. This budget supports an operation covering 4 stations serving nearly 70,000 people. It is projected that insurance reimbursements account for approximately 52% of the revenue and the assessed fees would make up the remainder of the revenue. There are plans to have some cash reserves as well.
Insurance companies only reimburse EMS approximately 45-50% of the cost to operate. This has been a big problem for many years and insurance reform has not been successful. As result, claims submitted to Insurance companies are not fully paid. The other challenge facing EMS agencies is the fact that most insurance companies send the reimbursement check to the patient and not to the EMS agency. Unfortunately many patients keep that insurance check and the EMS agency is never paid.
In order to have a stable and consistent funding stream, the municipalities are proposing an administrative authority. A fee would be charged to property owners to ensure a readiness for service and respond to calls. The fee only accounts for about half of the operating expenses.
Efforts for solutions at both a State and County level have not yielded results, so we’re taking a leadership position and working on a local solution. The County Commissioners have not expressed interest in a County based EMS system.
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