New Federal Legislation Aims to Keep Rural Ambulances in Operation

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U.S. NAVY
  • U.S. Navy

Earlier this summer, Malheur County—on the border of Oregon and Idaho—lost its rural ambulance service when a dispute between staff and board members left inadequate staff numbers at Jordan Valley Ambulance, and Oregon pulled the provider's license.

According to the Argus Observer, the area was taken over by Treasure Valley Paramedics while Jordan Valley Ambulance underwent relicensing. But running the rural service is a struggle with dwindling funding. Jordan Valley Ambulance is largely made up of volunteers as it is.

A new bill drafted by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, along with five other members of Congress—both Democrat and Republican—aims to ensure pay for rural ambulance services. The bill is called the Medicare Ambulance Access Fraud Prevention and Reform Act of 2014, or HR 5460. It was drafted just last month, as a way to give rural ambulance services more permanent funding.

"All of Malheur County is classified as 'super rural' by Medicare. If the temporary rates for ambulance care aren't extended, super rural areas like Malheur County will be hit the hardest, threatening ambulance care for seniors there," said Andrew Malcolm, a spokesperson for Walden. 

The bill adds a 25.6 percent increase to ambulance providers in super rural areas around the country. That helps ensure stability for organizations like Jordan Valley Ambulance.