Increase in funding for Delaware emergency responders

 (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

(AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Three bills have been signed into law in an effort to increase funding for the state’s Emergency Medical Services.

The legislation is a result of an Emergency Medical Service Task Force Report that revealed a more than $8 million deficit among volunteer companies in the state.

The volunteer EMS companies respond to more than 100,000 ambulance calls across the state each year. The nonprofit companies provide support to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, and companies have a hard time recouping the fee for some of those ambulance calls.

Additionally, EMS companies have had to increase the number of staff to keep up with new response time goals that were implemented in 1999.

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“The original EMS Improvement Act was passed in 1999, but there was no funding set aside,” explained Warren Jones, executive director of the Delaware Volunteer Firefighter Association. “Since ’99, we’ve been working on getting funding for EMS and for the volunteer ambulance companies of the state of Delaware.”

The General Assembly passed three bills earlier this year to increase funding and Gov. Jack Markell signed off on the legislation Wednesday afternoon.

“No one wants to think about being in a situation that requires help from our emergency responders, but we have a responsibility to ensure Delawareans have access to ambulance and EMS life support services,” said Markell. “Today, we take an important step forward in sustaining our volunteer ambulance and fire companies.”

House Bill 315 will add a $10 fee to all motor vehicle violations under Title 21 of the Delaware code while House Bill 317 will increase the gross premium tax, which is already paid for by health insurance companies to volunteer companies.

Senate Bill 207 will require all Delaware insurance policies to cover the cost of ambulance runs and basic life support services provided by the volunteer companies.

Jones, who worked with lawmakers on the legislation, said he’s pleased with the bills.

“We’re very thankful to the legislature for working with us and passing this legislation,” he said. “We think it’s going to be an asset to the volunteer ambulance companies of the state of Delaware and we’re looking forward to whatever revenue comes out.”

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