Lewis County Fire District 15 is looking for ways they can reduce the number of non-emergency transports their EMTs carry out, with officials stating they feel some users of state insurance are abusing the system.
Reported during the District's Board of Commissioners' meeting on Jan. 8, Commissioner Randy Pennington said he has begun speaking with state legislators to learn if their EMTs are able to deny transport to patients on state healthcare without critical injuries, stating other care providers allow them to do so.
"It taxes the services [of the district]," said Pennington, stating an ambulance that leaves the area on a non-critical call remains unavailable for potential critical patients until it returns, while calls insured by the Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS) are continuing to experience lower and lower reimbursement rates.
"I believe," he continued, indicating research he has conducted at the state level, "we as an ambulance service can say we do not honor DSHS and refuse it. It doesn't mean we refuse the patient. That means they have a private pay obligation to the district."
Pennington said, under the system he is investigating, if an EMT responds to a call and the patient, even though they are publicly insured, is not deemed a medical emergency, they will bear all costs personally if they wish to continue with ambulance transportation, unless otherwise approved by their insurance provider. Pennington said such practices are already used by private insurance as well as some forms of public insurance, such as that provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"When we do that, you will stop getting the people who call 911 because they ripped a toenail off," he said, adding "If that's something that is legal, I'm probably going to push for it."
Pennington said he has been speaking with Senator John Braun regarding the issue, and said Braun has spoken about the possibility of sending the matter to committee for later consideration as a bill. Additional information about the issue is expected to be reported during upcoming District 15 meetings.