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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Schipske Asks for Report on New Revenue for Fire Department -- Need to Restore Cuts

2 (Photo credit: stevelyon)
Schipske to Ask For Report on Newest Revenue Source for Fire Department : AB 678 --
New law provides millions for public agencies 
that operate ground emergency medical services

Long Beach, CA – May 21, 2012 – Concerned that budget cuts to the Long Beach Fire Department have resulted in slower response times, Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske is asking for a report from the city manager on whether or not the City has applied for new funding that could be used to restore cuts made to the department.

“AB 678 was passed last year and provides cities that operate ground emergency medical services a process to access new federal funds and subsequently receive supplemental Medi-Cal payments,” says Schipske. “Long Beach Fire Department transports many Medi-Cal recipients and should be able to receive several million.”

Schipske notes that AB 678 was signed into law in October 2011 and that cities were advised by the League of California Cities “to act quickly in order to receive the supplemental reimbursement.” The reimbursement mechanism provided through the State Department of Health Care Services was established last October, with the first round of reimbursements to be made as early as January 2012.
“Fire response times have been reduced because equipment and firefighters were removed from several stations due to budget cuts,” adds Schipske. “I am placing an item on the council agenda to discuss this new source of revenue and to request that it be used to restore some of the cuts made, especially for paramedic services.”

AB 678 was authored by Assemblyman Richard Pan, a physician from Northern California, and sponsored by the California Professional Firefighters (CPF), who report that ambulance transports have increased 13 percent from 1997 to 2006, and ambulance transports of Medi-Cal beneficiaries have increased 19 percent from 2006 to 2009.  CPF also points out that Medicare rates were reduced 10 percent in 2010, representing a reduction of $35 million statewide and straining fire department budgets even more.  

Schipske also points out that a legislative report found that current Medi-Cal rates do not cover the operating cost of a typical ambulance transport.  These unreimbursed costs are subsequently absorbed into a fire department's general fund and paid for by the taxpayers. “The sooner the City of Long Beach applies for these funds, the sooner we can begin restoring cuts to our fire services.”
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