Fire departments push for bill allowing EMS fees

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WOODBURY -

The number of emergency medical services calls has been rising across the state, and local fire departments say they're having trouble keeping up with the costs — so they want to bill patients and their insurers.

"It's getting very difficult," says West Babylon Fire Commissioner Daniel McCarthy. "Our call volume is record numbers -- 3,729 calls last year. Eighty percent are EMS."

State law says that fire department ambulances can only receive funding from fire district tax revenue. It is designed so only private EMS services or police ambulances can bill insurance companies or patients directly.

Firefighters, fire service leaders and some elected officials have been calling on lawmakers in Albany to pass a law that would allow departments to charge fees for EMS services. Supporters say it would improve service and response times.

Some critics fear it would be an added burden for people facing emergencies.

Others, like the United New York Ambulance Network, which represents private ambulance companies upstate, say the bill would harm EMS response in rural areas.

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