NASHVILLE — Legislation currently advancing in the Tennessee General Assembly could provide a much-needed shot in the arm to the Scott County Ambulance Service, if successful.
Senate Bill 704, sponsored by State Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, would aid ambulance services by implementing a quarterly coverage assessment, similar to the assessment that has prevented cuts in hospital revenues in Tennessee.
Yager’s bill would place the assessment revenue into a fund, which would allow the state to receive additional federal dollars from Medicaid, which would be redistributed to ambulance services across the state, both public and private.
The Ground Ambulance Service Provider Assessment Act is expected to generate $19.6 million in additional federal funds each year, which would be divided among Tennessee’s ambulance services. Potentially, Scott County Ambulance Service could gain tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.
“It’s a day-to-day struggle for many of our emergency medical service providers to stay afloat,” Yager said. “This bill provides a much-needed financial boost for our essential local emergency services. Like the Hospital & Nursing Home Assessment Act, it would provide more funds to save the invaluable lives of Tennesseans across the state.”
The legislation has received support from the State Ambulance Service Association and was passed unanimously in the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee. It now travels to the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee before going to the Senate floor for a final vote.
The Scott County Ambulance Service has traditionally been a money-making endeavor for local government, and has at times been used by the county to balance its budget and avoid property tax increases.
However, those surplus revenues have dwindled in recent years, thanks primarily to restructuring in the way Medicaid reimbursements are tallied. EMS director Jim Reed told County Commission earlier this year that the ambulance service could potentially find itself in the red for the first time ever, though he said he and his department continue to strive to keep the self-sustaining service from winding up on the tax rolls.