AUGUSTA — Maine’s financially strapped ambulance services, many of them run by city and town fire departments, are banding together and asking the Legislature to help them with a funding increase.

Ambulance operators, both private and public, are backing a bill that seeks $3.3 million in state funding a year, which would trigger additional federal funding to provide a total of $10 million annually. That funding would enable the state to increase the reimbursement rate for ambulance services from 65 percent to 100 percent of the federal rate under Medicare.

The bill would also raise the reimbursement rates for the state’s two neonatal intensive care unit ambulance services, which transport and treat ill and injured infants while they are attended by more specialized providers.

About 278 ambulance services responded to over 275,000 calls in Maine last year, and without the boost in funding the day could be coming when the call for help, especially in rural parts of the state, goes unanswered, said Butch Russell, the chief executive officer of Northeast Mobile Health and the president of the Maine Ambulance Association.

Russell spoke at a State House news conference Thursday, where Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, agreed to sponsor the bill and push to include it in the state budget that is now under negotiation in the Legislature.

 

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