What Bill H. 863 Does

Whether provided directly by fire departments or through contracts with private providers, municipalities pay much of the bill for emergency medical transportation in Massachusetts. This amendment protects public safety by ensuring fair reimbursement for EMS 911 transportation services.

  • It helps ensure rapid emergency response by guaranteeing fair compensation for EMS 911 providers.
  • Gives cities and towns — not insurance companies — authority to set rates for emergency medical services.
  • Applies only to 911 emergency services, which account for about 770,000 trips each year in Massachusetts. Non-emergency transport is not affected.

Fair Compensation

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield is trying to shift costs to local taxpayers by unilaterally slashing payments to cities and towns for EMS services, which would result in longer response times for EMS 911 calls.
  • Fire chiefs and other municipal officials support legislation sponsored by state Rep. James Cantwell that would prevent the cost shifting and ensure prompt payments directly to emergency medical service providers.
  • At a time when the state is cutting local aid and municipalities are forced to lay off teachers, police and firefighters, it is unconscionable for large insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield to try and evade their responsibility for critical emergency medical services by shifting the costs onto cities and towns.
  • If insurance companies are allowed to reduce reimbursement for EMS 911 transportation, local taxpayers will have to pick up the slack by increasing the amount they pay to subsidize emergency medical service providers.

Rate Setting

  • For all who are truly concerned about containing health care costs, placing rate setting authority in the hands of local municipalities is the best option.
  • Cities and towns know their special circumstances, such as population, demographics, size and distances to hospitals. Municipal officials are highly sensitive to the need to rein in the health care costs that are busting their budgets.

Bottom Line

  • This issue pits insurance companies against local taxpayers. If insurance companies are allowed to cut payments for 911 emergency transportation, local taxpayers will be forced to make up the difference.
  • If insurance companies are allowed to cut payments for 911 emergency transportation, people will have to endure longer wait times for emergency medical services.
  • This legislation does not add one penny to the cost of health care.
  • The amendment is supported by local fire chiefs, who are the people most familiar with how to manage 911 emergency services. It is also supported by the mayors, selectmen and city councilors who are the front line in the effort to control health care costs.

Fact Sheets