Barrar Moves Measure to Help Financially Strapped Ambulance Companies
6/15/2011

The House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Rep. Stephen E. Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), today unanimously approved legislation that would require health insurance companies to directly reimburse ambulance organizations responding to 9-1-1 emergency calls. 

“Our current system forces ambulance companies, which do not have the extra time or manpower, to chase down payments sent directly to the patient, and often it is a futile effort,” said Barrar.  “This legislation will fairly compensate ambulance companies for the services they are mandated by law to provide.  The insurance companies are already cutting these checks, so it is just a matter of changing the recipient listed on the payee line.” 

House Bill 1344 was authored by Rep. Bernie O’Neill (R-Bucks).  During the committee meeting, O’Neill spoke about his efforts spanning almost a decade to get this legislation through the legislative process and signed into law. 

The bill was amended in committee to establish an “assignment of benefits” form which an ambulance service may choose to have the patient sign in order for the insurance payment to be sent directly to the ambulance service.  If this assignment of benefit process is used, then the ambulance service cannot balance bill the patient.  This means if the expenses for transporting a patient exceed the insurance company set rate for the service, the ambulance organization could not seek the difference from the patient or the insured person.   

The Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania has listed this legislation as a top priority.  Ambulance organizations lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annually when patients refuse to turn over payments.  There even have been cases of individuals bilking insurance companies by making frequent 9-1-1 calls only to obtain the payment due to the ambulance organization and then failing to turn it over. 

“Our emergency responders have a duty to save lives, and to expect them to devote hours upon hours to pursuing the payments they rightfully deserve detracts from their efforts to treat patients,” said Barrar.  “If insurance companies really cared about the health of individuals, they would see the benefit of a financially viable ambulance system.” 

During the discussion about the bill, Barrar spoke about the need for this proposal and the insurance industry’s attempts to fight the bill. 

 “We are not asking the insurance companies to pay for the uninsured, but we are asking them to pay for the services their subscribers use,” said Barrar.  “In our meetings with insurance industry representatives, they suggested ambulance organizations join their networks, but there are examples of the industry denying ambulance companies from the network.  The Ambulance Association has shown its willingness to compromise, and now it is time for the insurance industry to come to the table in good faith and work out a solution.” 

In other legislative business, the committee approved:  

  • Senate Bill 654, authored by Sen. Dave Argall (R-Berks/Carbon/Lehigh/Monroe/Northampton/Schuylkill), which is identical to Rep. Frank Farry’s (R-Bucks) legislation to provide cancer presumption for firefighters.
  • House Bill 1174, authored by Rep. Joe Hackett (R-Delaware), which would protect the identity of 9-1-1 callers.
  • House Resolution 331, authored by Barrar and Rep. Chris Sainato (D-Beaver/Lawrence), which would examine the future use of the “Tides of War” memorial for Pennsylvania Medal of Honor recipients, as space is dwindling in Soldiers Grove in Harrisburg.
  • House Bill 1500, authored by Rep. John Bear (R-Lancaster), which would correct issues with Act 114 of 2008 so veterans residing in long-term care facilities could receive prescription drugs from the Veterans Administration. 

All legislation will now go before the full House for debate and consideration. 

More information about Barrar and his legislative priorities is available at SteveBarrar.com or Facebook.com/RepBarrar

State Representative Steve Barrar
160th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact:  Nicole Wamsley
nwamsley@pahousegop.com
717.783.8063

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