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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Joe Schomacker (R)

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Thursday, March 21, 2024

ST. PAUL – In order to address the critical challenges being faced by rural ambulance services in Greater Minnesota, State Representative Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne) is co-authoring legislation that would provide them with needed funding relief.


Schomacker’s bill establishes an aid program for licensed ambulance service providers and makes a onetime appropriation of $120 million for this program.


“Emergency medical services teams from around the state are struggling to maintain operations,” Schomacker said. “It has little to do with their ability to manage budgets, and much to do with the state’s inability to fix reimbursement rates to these organizations.”


Schomacker said severe reimbursement shortfalls, aging workforces, unsustainable staffing models and increased operating costs are forcing problems in local EMS services, creating a crisis that has life-threatening consequences for families and communities. In 2022, statewide reported operations deficit for ground ambulance service costs was $122 million. 


Schomacker said in southwestern Minnesota, there are 42 EMS districts, and at least 24 are operating in the red. 


“Our EMS teams are largely made up of volunteers who respond during times of crisis to get their neighbors to the hospital,” Schomacker said. “They do their jobs without fanfare and if you haven’t needed their emergency assistance, you haven’t thought about the challenges they face with response times due to aging equipment.”


Schomacker said this proposal is designed for a one time-funding infusion, recognizing the state faces a budget surplus for the remaining of the budget cycle, but a budget deficit in the next term. Even if this bill is signed into law, Schomacker realizes lawmakers must find a long-term solution for rural EMS teams.


“With so many ambulance services operating in the red, we are in a dangerous situation,” Schomacker said. “This shot-in-the-arm approach gives local EMS extra dollars to work with as lawmakers work on a long-term fix. I’m very pleased that this bipartisan bill is moving forward, and hopefully we will soon support our ambulance providers with some of the expenses they face.” 


Schomacker said the bill was recently approved by the Minnesota House Health Finance and Policy Committee, and now heads to the House Tax Committee for further debate.