Altona, NY – Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) joined with members of the North Country’s volunteer fire service to celebrate the inclusion of the “Fair Play Ambulance Cost Recovery Act” (A.534-A) in the NY State budget. The legislation allows fire departments to recover the costs associated with providing emergency medical services (EMS) – specifically ambulance transport services - in New York State.
EMS cost recovery for volunteer fire department ambulances was a top legislative priority of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY), representing 85,000 volunteer firefighters across the State, along with the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs and the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York.
“We commend Assemblyman Jones for his hard work in bringing this critical legislation to its conclusion and thank him for his dedication to the volunteers of New York State,” said FASNY President John Farrell. “Volunteers across the state train tirelessly to ensure they are prepared to respond to any and all emergencies. Allowing local fire departments to recover the costs of providing vital EMS services will help offset the costs of EMS services and allow volunteer departments to continue providing life-saving ambulance services in their communities.”
New York State was the only state in the nation that did not allow fire departments to recover the costs of ambulance services. The law facilitates the recovery of $100 million in EMS costs annually by local fire departments – with an anticipated $3 million dollars in recovery going to North Country fire departments that provide ambulance service.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of passing the Fair Play Ambulance Cost Recovery Act,” said Assemblyman Billy Jones. “This is an absolute game changer for fire departments that provide ambulance services. Now fire departments will no longer worry that they will reach a point where they cannot afford to answer an emergency call, a decision no one should have to make. These fire departments can also now afford to make important updates to their equipment to help them respond to all emergencies. It was ridiculous that New York was the only state in the nation to not allow fire departments to recover these costs and I am proud that this bill was included in the state budget. But I would be remiss if I did not mention all the lawmakers that preceded me and the firefighters who have fought for this bill for decades- it is thanks to their efforts as well that this bill finally passed and I am pleased that some of them were able to make it today to celebrate.”
“This legislation will help ease the financial burden on fire departments and help increase training, staffing, and equipment,” said Scott Ewing, Second Vice President of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs. “Countless New Yorkers depend on local volunteer fire departments for ambulance services and this legislation will help ambulance providers and fire departments to recover the costs of EMS calls and ensure that all New Yorkers receive a prompt response if they dial 911. We thank Assemblyman Jones for his hard work in ensuring this legislation was included in the State budget.”
Previously, volunteer emergency medical services that operate as part of volunteer fire departments were not able to charge insurance companies, Medicare, or Medicaid for their ambulance services. They have therefore been forced to recoup those expenses in their taxpayer-funded budgets. The number of ambulance calls has risen exponentially across the state in recent years and the cost of providing EMS services soared during the COVID-19 pandemic. While ambulance corps and paid ambulance services were able to bill patients’ medical insurance providers, fire department-operated ambulances were unable to do so. This left fire districts/departments – and in turn taxpayers - footing the bill for EMS responses. The ability to recover the cost of emergency calls will help reduce the burden on taxpayers as well as on fire districts/departments across the state.
This legislation represents a bipartisan effort to provide equity among New York State’s EMS providers, which include private EMS companies, volunteer ambulance corps (VACs), and fire departments. Fire departments provide EMS coverage to nearly half of the state, and many of these departments are smaller, with roughly 90 percent of all fire departments in the State of New York staffed with volunteers. These departments are usually the first to respond to urgent situations, providing medical treatment and transport.