NYS Firefighters Descend on Albany for Annual Government Affairs Day
-Firefighters fight to change law to save fire department-based ambulance services-
(Albany – May 20, 2019) Firefighters representing the four largest fire service organizations in New York State descended on Albany today for their annual “Government Affairs Day.” They spent the day meeting with their elected representatives to discuss the Issues of United Concern, advocating personally for legislation that would benefit both the fire service and the people of New York State. This year’s main priority is a bill that would allow fire departments to recover the costs of providing ambulance services, also known as EMS (emergency medical services).
The EMS cost recovery bill (S. 03685 / A. 01778) is sponsored by State Senator John Brooks and Assemblymember Billy Jones, and is currently on its third reading in the State Senate. This legislation is a bipartisan effort to resolve a long-brewing affordability crisis facing New York’s fire departments. Fire departments provide EMS coverage to nearly half of the State, and many of these departments are staffed by volunteers. EMS call volumes are steadily rising, with many fire departments now handling more ambulance than fire runs. Staffing an ambulance requires a significant investment in personnel, equipment, training, and time.
Despite the massive resources needed to properly provide safe, reliable ambulance coverage, fire departments are uniquely required to shoulder all the costs associated with running ambulances. Unlike fire departments, every other ambulance provider in New York State, including private EMS companies and volunteer ambulance corps (VACs), can recover some of the expense by working directly with patients’ insurance providers.
This legislation changes this, allowing fire departments to recover the costs of running EMS calls without raising any taxes. Once passed and signed into law, fire departments would be able to benefit from existing sources of revenue, such as patients’ already-existing healthcare policies. The recovered funds would be used to ensure that fire department ambulances across New York State are properly staffed with well-trained and equipped emergency medical technicians, ready to serve the community.
The passage of this legislation would give some much-needed financial assistance to many of the State’s departments, while also likely yielding improved response times and service for New Yorkers.
Julius J. Leone, President of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs: “EMS is a core mission for many New York fire departments, and countless New Yorkers rely on fire departments for ambulance services. But the financial burden for fire departments can be debilitating, given the significant demands on training, staffing, and equipment. Providing parity among the different New York ambulance providers and permitting fire departments to recover the costs of EMS calls, will help ensure that all New Yorkers can expect a timely, properly-staffed ambulance when they dial 911.”
Steven E. Klein, President of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York: “Volunteer fire departments are responsible for protecting the majority of New York State, and many smaller departments, particularly in rural areas, are struggling to handle growing EMS call volumes. Some departments are reassessing whether they can continue to provide these lifesaving services, given the expense and requirements. This legislation is a simple, elegant solution, and would likely result in faster ambulance response times at no cost to the taxpayer.”
Frederick Senti, Jr., President of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York: “The EMS affordability crisis facing New York’s fire departments has a very simple solution. The passage of this legislation would permit New York fire departments to benefit from patients’ existing healthcare plans, as other ambulance providers already do, providing much-needed funds to help keep fire departments open and operational. This solution does not involve any new taxes and will benefit all New Yorkers.”
2019 Issues of United Concern
Emergency Medical Cost Recovery: allow fire departments and districts to recover the cost of providing pre-hospital EMS service from insurers, Medicare and Medicaid in a similar manner as for-profit, not-for-profit and municipal providers are able to recover costs. Fire departments are currently unable to do so.
Chapter Amendments to GML 205cc (presumptive cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters): clarifying or modifying as appropriate the verification requirements so that benefits may be extended to intended firefighters with five years of interior service to their respective departments.
Seek an increase in VFBL/VAWBL: update benefits for temporarily and totally disability volunteers and seek parity with worker’s compensation benefits for volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers in the event they are injured in the line of duty.
Endangering the Welfare of Fire and Emergency Personnel: pursue legislative and administrative actions for building owners who perform modifications or conversions without obtaining the prescribed permits for single or multi-family occupancies which endangers the welfare of the occupants and fire or emergency responders in the pursuit of their duties
Upholstered Furniture Fire Safety Standards: establish a prohibition on the sale of upholstered furniture which employs the use of carcinogenic flame-retardant chemicals.
Founded in 1872, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents the interests of the approximately 105,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York State. For more information, visit www.fasny.com.
About the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs
Organized in 1904 the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs represents nearly 11,000 career and volunteer chiefs and fire service leaders throughout New York State. For additional information visit, www.nysfirechiefs.com
About the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York
The Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York, a not-for-profit corporation, works to improve the fiscal responsibility, efficiency and effectiveness of the fire district management through education, training and advocacy for commissioners and other fire district officials in the 57 counties outside of the City of New York.