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Upper Bucks EMS group sounds alarm

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A state bill designed to eliminate unexpected medical bills would have dire consequences for a local EMS provider.

House Bill 1862, designed to help patients who receive so-called surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers, would allow insurance companies to set the rates, said Ryan Pankoe, executive director of the Upper Bucks Regional Emergency Medical Service. And those reimbursement rates are much lower than the out-of-network rate UBREMS currently receives.

Addressing Springfield Township supervisors, Pankoe said his organization “wouldn’t be able to survive” if the measure passes because the changes would prevent it from balance billing a patient for the portion of the bill not paid by insurance, costing UBREMS several hundred thousand dollars.

The bill would also eliminate UBREMS’ subscription income, which amounts to over $100,000 annually. “If the insurance companies set the rates and legislators impose that EMS must accept that as payment-in-full, the write-off benefit to subscribers is negated,” Pankoe told the Herald on Tuesday.

Supervisors offered their support at their Nov. 26 meeting, with a unanimous motion supporting HB 1347 but not HB 1862 as currently written. The former, backed by EMS providers across the state, would require insurance companies to directly pay the EMS provider rather than the patient.

“There was approximately $40,000 last year of payments made by insurance companies and intended to be remitted to UBREMS, but the payment checks were made out to the patient so they kept it and never turned it over to UBREMS,” Pankoe said.

Both bills are currently languishing in the House as legislators work on amendments.

Pankoe also disputed comments made by acting Supervisor Chairman Jim Nilsen that the organization planned to relocate its station in Revere farther south to better serve patients in Tinicum and Bedminster townships, and to be closer to Doylestown Hospital.

“We have no plans currently for that,” he remarked. He did acknowledge, however, that the station building on Route 611 needed interior and exterior renovation.

Nilsen, a member of the UBREMS board of directors for Springfield Township, made the remarks at a Nov. 12 meeting as he pressed for a suitable site in the township to house the emergency responder’s fourth ambulance, which would serve as a backup in case the primary ambulance is on call.

Nilsen added that UBREMS would provide the funding to make the space functional.

Supervisors later passed a motion directing township counsel Scott MacNair to draft a tentative lease agreement with UBREMS should a suitable site be agreed upon.

“We’re okay with it as long as there is no additional cost to the township,” said Supervisor Jim Hopkins.

UBREMS covers an area of 190 square miles and serves nine municipalities in its primary response area.


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