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Schoen proposes bill to boost EMS, trauma funding

A south Washington County lawmaker is proposing a remedy for Minnesota trauma care that recently suffered in a national ranking.

The state should provide new funding to trauma centers and to local emergency medical service providers, Rep. Dan Schoen said. They are seeing increased demand even as they see reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for service, he said.

Some agencies and trauma care providers could decide it’s not financially feasible to provide  specialized, advanced service, such as helicopter transport.

“We don’t want to get to a point where they’re looked at as a nice thing to have,” said Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, who works as a Cottage Grove police officer and paramedic. “We think we need to have them.”

The measure is being pushed by the Minnesota chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. The national group recently graded Minnesota’s emergency care environment as a “C.”

The bill, which Schoen and a Senate sponsor are carrying in the 2014 legislative session that begins Feb. 25, would direct money to trauma-level hospitals and to local EMS and ambulance services. There also is medical training money in the proposal.

The funding would be collected by the state and then split four ways:

  • 75 percent would go to trauma-level hospitals
  • 15 percent provided to all ambulance providers
  • 5 percent divided among eight regional EMS programs
  • 5 percent parceled out to training

Schoen said it is estimated to raise about $20 million a year.

It would be funded with a new charge to auto insurance providers, equal to about $10 per insured Minnesota driver. Schoen said that amounts to less than $1 a month.

An auto insurance charge is proposed because 60 percent of trauma cases are the result of car accidents, Schoen said.

Insurance company representatives oppose the measure.

It’s problematic for a couple of reasons, said Mark Kulda, spokesman for the Insurance Federation of Minnesota.

First, he said, there are existing insurance surcharges that were intended to be dedicated to specific uses but have been tapped by lawmakers for other state spending. Insurance companies fear that could happen with the EMS charge.

Also, Kulda said, auto insurance companies already reimburse for trauma care costs at the full rate. It’s government payees, such as Medicare, that don’t provide full reimbursement, he said.

“It’s a little unfair to make auto insurance pay even more,” he said.

Kulda said his group estimates that Schoen’s bill would raise $26 million annually, not the $20 million estimated by the lawmaker.

Schoen said a fee on insured drivers that amounts to less than $1 per month is fair when considered what is being provided by that revenue.

It’s an attempt to “make sure we have the tools to get (injured) people to the right places,” Schoen said, “and that (medical) training is available.”