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2008 Media Releases


Date:
July 28, 2008
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831


FEDERAL LEGISLATION INCLUDES RELIEF FOR LINCOLN FIRE AND RESCUE

Federal legislation recently enacted into law includes a provision that will provide a temporary 2 percent increase in Medicare reimbursement rates for ambulance services in areas such as Lincoln. The provision is in a law that will delay fee reductions for physicians participating in the Medicare program. Mayor Chris Beutler has strongly advocated for the increase in the reimbursement rates, and he said he is pleased Congress chose to act.

“While the City of Lincoln is committed to providing the highest quality ambulance services, we also believe that the federal government has a responsibility to meet the needs of those participating in the Medicare program,” Mayor Beutler said. “This legislation will provide us with some relief as we grapple with the soaring costs of medical care.”

Beutler thanked U.S. Senator Ben Nelson in particular for his role in ensuring that the ambulance language remained in the final version of the physician payment bill. “We are grateful to Senator Nelson for his perseverance on our behalf,” Beutler said. “Negotiations over this legislation were arduous, and his efforts to secure the ambulance language in the bill will prove invaluable not only to Lincoln, but to ambulance providers throughout Nebraska.”

The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act became law July 15 after both the House and Senate overrode the President’s veto of the measure. It will postpone for 18 months a planned 10.6 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement fees for doctors, but also includes a host of other provisions relating to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Among those provisions is a 2 percent increase in the Medicare reimbursement rate for ground ambulance services in urban areas and a 3 percent increase in rural areas. The ambulance provision will be retroactive to July 1, 2008 and will expire on December 31, 2009.

Beutler said the ambulance provision will directly benefit Lincoln Fire and Rescue (LFR), which currently collects from Medicare an average of only 77 percent of the total cost of transporting a Medicare patient by ambulance. The medical guidelines and protocols under which LFR must operate are among the most stringent in the nation. As a result, the City spends about $362 per transport, but may collect only about $280 of that total from Medicare.


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