Ambulance Service Warns Of TennCare Cuts; Committee Begins Process ToBuild Ambulance Building

Huntsville, TN (2010-03-01) With more budget cuts looming in Nashville, Scott County Ambulance Service Director Jim Reed warned the Emergency Services Committee of potentially deeper cuts in TennCare reimbursements to Ambulance Services across the State.

With State revenues down, TennCare officials notified all Ambulance Service Directors across the State of impending reimbursement cuts last year, estimating that a five percent reduction would be forthcoming. Since the announcement, the Tennessee Ambulance Services Association has made a concerted effort to lobby TennCare to lessen the impact of the cuts. Reed commented that not long ago, the effort was believed to have convinced TennCare budget officials to make only a 2.5 percent cut.

Unfortunately, the most recent word from TennCare is for Ambulance Services to expect a minimum of a 7 percent cut, with the possibility of the final number rising to 10 percent. “We can’t afford a cut that deep,” Reed noted. In previous years, the Commission has been able to transfer $500,000 per year from the Ambulance Service to balance the County budget. “Next year, we might have to come to you and ask for a supplement,” Reed said.

MediCare, the other major source of revenue for the Ambulance Service, has already announced cutbacks in their reimbursement rates. Urban rates will see a 3 percent cut, rural rates 4 percent, and “super rural” rates will incur an 18 percent reduction. According to Reed, Scott County is reimbursed under the rural rate; however, he could not rule out the possibility that MediCare would classify Scott County as a super rural area in determining the level of cuts.

In other news regarding the Ambulance Service, Reed once again asked the Committee to begin the process of building a new home for the Ambulance Service. Reed stated that former County Executive Dwight Murphy had initially noted the need for a new building, but through a series of other capital projects, including the new Winfield Elementary School, Scott County Justice Center, and the current school building program at Burchfield and Robbins Elementary, had been asked to put the project on hold. With the current number of ambulances running, the current facility cannot house all the units. “We have no room for training, and with our electrical situation, there is no way to keep units that are forced to sit outside warm,” said Reed. On a motion by Commissioner Jeff Watson, and seconded by commissioner Gerry Garrett, the Committee voted unanimously to recommend hiring an architect to draw up plans for a new building. While various sites were discussed, including land adjacent to the Justice Center, none were decided upon Monday night.