(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently secured his bipartisan amendment to protect rural veterans’ access to lifesaving emergency medical transportation services to a key Senate bill that passed last week.
“Emergency air and ground transportation services are a lifeline for Montanans when a medical emergency happens,” said Chairman Tester. “Our provision means these services can stay afloat so Montana veterans can continue receiving these lifesaving emergency services when they need it. VA still has to work to do to fix this reimbursement issue, and that’s why I’m continuing to push for our bipartisan VA Emergency Transportation Act.”
The Senator’s amendment would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from implementing a rule to slash reimbursement rates for special mode transportation, including air and ground ambulances, far below the actual costs of these services in fiscal year 2024. Under the current timeline, VA’s rule is set to go into effect in February 2024, despite significant opposition from Tester, providers, and Veteran Service Organizations. Rate reductions could cause emergency transportation providers to severely reduce services, close bases, or even bill veterans for the remainder of their costs in order to shoulder the financial impacts of this change.
Tester has been leading the bipartisan charge to push back on the Biden Administration’s proposed rule change and protect Montana veterans’ access to emergency medical transportation services with his VA Emergency Transportation Access Act. The Senator’s bipartisan legislation would bar VA from reducing rates of pay and reimbursement for special mode transportation providers, including ground and air ambulances, unless the Department meets certain requirements that ensure rate changes will not reduce veterans’ access to this essential service.
Tester’s bipartisan amendment is supported by emergency medical service leaders in Montana:
“We applaud Senators Tester, Moran and Boozman for their leadership and support of our veterans,” said Ben Clayton, CEO of Life Flight Network. “Emergency air and ground ambulances are often the only lifeline for veterans living in our rural communities. As a veteran myself, I’m encouraged by their efforts and I want to thank the Senators for taking action.”
“On behalf of the Montana Ambulance Association, and the manager for Missoula Emergency Service I would like to thank Senator Tester, Senator Moran, and Senator Boozman for their hard work and leadership to protect ambulance services across Montana,” said Don Whalen, President of the Montana Ambulance Association (MTAA). “This amendment they worked on will help all ambulance services across Montana continue to provide the highest level of care to Montana Veterans.”
“This is great news for our nation’s veterans and our ambulance services in Montana including Great Falls Emergency Services (GFES) in Great Falls, Montana,” said Justin Grohs, Great Falls Emergency Services (GFES) General Manager. “We appreciate Senators Tester, Moran, and Boozman for introducing this amendment which will ensure ambulance services are reimbursed properly by the VA and can continue to provide ambulance transport of our Veterans.”