New-York News

Low reimbursement rates force Westchester ambulettes to end services for Medicaid patients

Low Medicaid reimbursement rates have forced a coalition of 10 ambulette providers in Westchester County to end services for Medicaid patients.

Ambulettes transport New Yorkers with serious illnesses and those with disabilities to dialysis centers, cancer treatment facilities and hospitals, but are not as medically equipped as ambulances. The companies that operate them work with some nursing homes and private pay clients, but the vast majority of their patients are covered by Medicaid, said Ed Kelley, who represents the United Transportation Providers of Westchester County group.

A state Department of Health study shows that the average ambulette trip in Westchester costs a provider $70, but Medicaid only reimburses $44. The 1,000 Medicaid patients the coalition transports per day don’t bring in enough revenue to sustain each small business, Kelley, who declined to name the providers that make up the coalition, said. Ambulette operators and owners held a rally outside Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital in New Rochelle Friday, emphasizing that the cuts would disrupt care access for seriously ill individuals and calling on the state to take action.

Kelley added that auto liability insurance costs for ambulettes have increased substantially in recent years. While it cost about $8,000 per vehicle annually to insure fleets two years ago, that has skyrocketed to $22,000 per ambulette for 2024.

“Small business owners, they have no more money,” Kelley said.

The state Department of Health has assured business owners that ambulettes from other areas could come in to relieve transportation gaps. Department spokeswoman Cadence Acquaviva told Crain’s that the Medical Answering Service, the department’s transportation broker, has identified businesses that can complete upcoming trips. Patients should contact the Medical Answering Service directly to arrange pickups in Westchester, she said.

Kelley declined to share details about the new rate proposal the coalition sent to the Medical Answering Service in January and said the state has not responded. Acquaviva said the state is discussing potential increases with providers and could reassess rates in 90 days.

Jacqueline Neber , 2024-03-11 09:33:04

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