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Sen. Jason Gallion: Legislation would get boost Medicaid reimbursement rates for emergency transports | COMMENTARY

One of a series of weekly commentaries from Harford County state legislators regarding the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session.

Nearly a year ago, COVID-19 entered our lives and has since left a devastating impact on the economy, our small businesses, our educational system and countless other facets of our daily lives. One of the few consistencies we have seen during the pandemic is that our volunteer fire and EMS providers are consistently there to serve our communities.

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As a life member of Level Volunteer Fire Company, I have seen firsthand the dedication of our volunteer fire and EMS providers in Harford County over the years. These committed responders are out providing emergency services all day and night, no matter the weather or other challenges that are in their way. This has been especially highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jason Gallion
Jason Gallion

One of my priority pieces of legislation this session is Senate Bill 389, a bill that will help these volunteer fire and EMS organizations get on the path to a modern reimbursement rate for EMS transports that is closer to surrounding states. This legislation was also introduced last year but was unfortunately not acted upon because the legislative session adjourned early for the first time since the Civil War.

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This proposed legislation would alter the Medicaid reimbursement rate for emergency medical transports from $100 by $25 a year until the rate reaches $300. An increase to the rate is long overdue as it has been fixed at $100 for over 20 years. In addition, this legislation would also allow for billing when ambulances treat a patient but do not transport them to a hospital. For example, if an ambulance responds to an overdose emergency call and administers Narcan to reverse the overdose, but the patient refuses transport to a medical facility, the EMS provider currently gets no funding for that call.

While the current Medicaid reimbursement rate has been fixed at $100, our surrounding states have surpassed us in this regard. This is especially difficult for our first responders in Western Maryland, which shares a border with both Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Those states currently reimburse at a rate of over $300 for Advanced Life Support calls.

Our first responders and EMS personnel are on the front lines every day, especially in times such as these when we are dealing with a global pandemic. This bill is a modest approach to closing the gap between income and expenses for our EMS providers. Maryland is nationally known as a leader in emergency services and we need to make sure they are funded in a fair way to ensure that continues.

I would also like to take a moment to encourage current high school seniors or college students living in District 35 that are planning to attend a Maryland institution to consider applying for a Maryland Senatorial Scholarship. For those interested in applying, please contact my office at jason.gallion@senate.state.md.us or 410-841-3603 and my staff would be happy to provide you with an application and more information

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For those eligible or waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine, please monitor https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine for updates regarding appointment availability and to locate other providers administering vaccines. If you’re unable to access the internet please call the Harford County Health Department at 410-838-1500.

I am looking forward to the final months of session and sincerely thank the citizens of Harford and Cecil counties for the opportunity to serve you in the legislature.

Jason Gallion is a Republican representing District 35 in the Maryland Senate.

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