Volunteer firefighters seek authority to bill for ambulance rides

The legislation would give departments the ability to charge, but not mandate a fee

By Matthew Hamilton
Times Union

ALBANY, N.Y. — Volunteer fire departments are seeking authority from the state to charge for EMS services, something they say other ambulance providers, including volunteer ambulance corps, already can do.

Firefighters, who were at the Capitol Tuesday to lobby for two priority bills, say that like local governments they are hindered by a 2 percent property tax cap and are increasingly running the risk of slashing EMS services if the money to pay for services isn't there. 

"It's becoming more and more difficult because of the training requirements, especially in many of the rural areas," state Association of Fire Chiefs Executive Director Jerry DeLuca said. "They just can't provide the service. If we're not able to bill, we're not going to be able to pay people to provide the service. And that's what's happening, they need to hire staff."

The legislation being proposed would not mandate that a fee be put in place, but would give fire departments the ability to charge.

The bill has not gone anywhere in the state Senate or Assembly in previous legislative sessions.

Firefighters also were pushing on Tuesday for stalled legislation that would provide for presumptive cancer coverage for volunteers. Under the bill, if a volunteer firefighter passed a physical when they entered the fire service and showed no signs of any of the specified cancers, it would be presumed that cancer developed later in life is attributable to volunteer firefighting duties.

The legislation would allow local municipalities to opt out of the presumptive coverage requirements.

The intent of the bill is not to stick the state with the cost of any increased insurance premiums but rather to have costs covered by fire departments or local governments.

That bill already has passed the Senate this year.

Copyright 2017 Times Union

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