Hawkins asking state to increase TennCare EMS reimbursements

Jeff Bobo • Dec 18, 2019 at 7:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE – Hawkins County leaders are asking the state to increase TennCare reimbursements to increase revenue for cash strapped rural ambulance services like Hawkins County EMS.

On Monday the Hawkins County Commission approved a resolution encouraging the Tennessee General Assembly to support legislation which directs TennCare to reimburse ambulance service providers at least at the same rate as the current Medicare fee schedule.

Funding for that change should be included in the 2020-21 state budget, the resolution states. 

Like many rural ambulance providers, Hawkins County EMS has struggled financially for years.

Earlier this year HCEMS reduced its number of 24/7 ambulances operating in Hawkins County from six to five, eliminating the full time ambulance that was stationed in Surgonsville.

The reason for the change was the fact that a sixth ambulance had to be manned by overtime staff due to a manpower shortage, which was costing an additional $30,000 per month.

There was no specific data available Tuesday regarding the potential impact this legislation would have on HCEMS's annual revenue, although TennCare reimbursements are generally half of what Medicare provides.

HCEMS Board of Directors Chairman Lynn Campbell told the Times News that the vast majority of the agency's thousands of calls each year are for Medicare/TennCare patients.

Campbell said the potential increase of TennCare funding if that policy was adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly would be substantial.

The resolution, which was introduced by Budget Committee Chairman John Metz, was approved 20-0.

The resolution states that more rural hospitals and clinics are being closed and downsized, requiring a greater need for ambulance services from remote areas, but the TennCare ambulance reimbursement hasn't been increased since the inception of the system.

“Ambulance services throughout the state, in order to meet growing emergency needs and reduce the burden of local governments and taxpayers, need assistance in improving funding for these lifesaving services,” the resolution states. “Although this (proposed) increased funding does not cover the full cost of services, it will begin an effort to aid our communities as demand continues to increase for EMS system resources across the state.”

Upon being approved this resolution will be sent to state representatives and senators encouraging their support to approve such legislation in time to be implemented in the 2020-21 state budget.

IDB membership renewal

The commission also voted 19-0 with one abstention Monday to approve the reappointment of Hawkins County Industrial Development Board members Gene Christian and Otis Munsey to six year terms each ending on Dec. 31, 2025.

The only non-affirmative vote was cast by Commissioner Syble Vaughan-Trent who abstained.

Commission's 2020 monthly meeting schedule

The Commission vote 20-0 in favor of its 2020 monthly meeting schedule which is on the fourth Monday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Hawkins County Courthouse with only two exceptions.

In May the meeting will be held the third Monday, on the 19th, at 6 p.m. due to the Memorial Day Holiday; and in December the meeting will be held the third Monday, on the 21st, due to the Christmas/New Years holidays.

Train Depot transfer postponed

A resolution introduced by Commissioner Charlie Thacker transferring the deed for the Rogersville Depot at the corner of Depot Street and Broadway Street in Rogersville from the county to the city was withdrawn.

Thacker told the commission there was a discrepancy with the property lines that needs to be addressed before the deed transfer is finalized.

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