EMS operators seek $120 million in state funding to avoid ‘collapse’

EMS operators seek $120 million in state funding to avoid ‘collapse’

EMS operators seek $120 million in state funding to avoid 'collapse'

Legislators say lack of funding and workforce issues are “stretching EMS capacity” across the state and introduced legislation this week for an “emergency infusion” of state funding.

The $120 million effort is being led by State Sen. Grant Hauschild (DFL-Hermantown) and State Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora), the chief authors of bills SF 3886 in the Senate and HF 3992 in the House.

“From rural towns to urban centers, the system is currently strained, underfunded and at the brink of collapse,” said Mike Juntenen of the Minnesota Ambulance Association, who spoke at a news conference Thursday at the Minnesota State Capitol. “A patient who is experiencing a heart attack, they can start to see their chances of survival plummet” without a timely emergency response.

EMS officials from around the state appeared at the news conference to highlight workforce and funding issues that stem from low reimbursement rates from insurance companies and governmental payers.

“This comes at a time when we have an aging and medically needy population,” said Becca Huebsch, the Perham Area EMS Director in Otter Tail County. “Ambulances are no longer able to cope and I fear that without the support of the state, the network of ambulance responders around the state will collapse.”

That’s why they’re asking for $120 million from the state in the form of grant money each system can spend on equipment and to retain and recruit emergency workers.

Larry Cuffe Jr., mayor of Virginia, MN, says his city’s EMS system lost more than $550,000 in 2023 and had to cover those losses with city reserve funds and investments.

“It’s not sustainable,” to keep covering those losses on their own, he said. “In three years we’re not going to have any money in our accounts to pay for that.”

Although there are bills under consideration for new funding, it could be difficult to get support when legislative leaders are trying to keep a lid on new spending with the potential for a budget deficit over the next two years.

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