Volunteer EMS Across the State Seek Relief: Pass the Fair Play Cost Recovery Bill (S3685B / A1778A)
The volunteer fire service has continued to respond throughout this pandemic, providing our communities with prompt and reliable emergency services. This has been a challenge in light of rising call volumes and the increased cost of cleaning supplies, specialized equipment and personal protective equipment. In addition, the collective pool of volunteers has been reduced due to pre-existing conditions, infection or quarantine. Due in part to these factors, volunteer departments have had to supplement their personnel with full-time, paid emergency medical technicians and paramedics. While this is a benefit to the community in the form of expedient response times, the costs associated with this are ultimately passed onto the taxpayers. Adding to this increased financial strain, volunteer fire departments have been unable to conduct robust fundraising campaigns. Thus, the COVID-19 pandemic has become the most recent example that volunteer departments need to be able to establish fees and charges for emergency medical services.
The passage of this bill would ensure that volunteer fire departments across the state are better funded so that they are able to procure necessary personnel, equipment and supplies. Implementation of this legislation would not result in increased costs to taxpayers and would not raise premiums for insurance policies. A 2017 study in New York showed that 297,000 ambulance calls were handled by fire department operated ambulances. Currently, fire departments are unable to collect an average of $350 per call from insurers. S3685B / A1778A would correct this limitation and empower municipalities to collect an estimated $100 million from insurers, a burden that is currently on the shoulders of New York State residents. New York is the only state that does not allow cost recovery for volunteer fire department EMS. This common-sense legislation has been bottlenecked for too long and this pandemic and ensuing fiscal crisis facing our localities have shined a light on the issue.
Please take a few minutes to view our video which highlights the need for the Assembly to pass fair play cost recovery in light of the fiscal crisis currently underway in vital communities like Selden and South Lockport.