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Pennsylvania lawmakers chip away at stalemate, pass bill to boost hospital and ambulance subsidies

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania on Wednesday gave final approval to budget-related legislation that boosts Medicaid subsidies for hospitals and ambulance services, provisions that have been stuck in a wider monthslong stalemate.

The bill passed the House 199-4 and heads to Gov. Josh Shapiro's desk. It passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday, as partisans have clashed since July over some remaining elements of the state's $45 billion budget plan since July.

Under the bill, lawmakers reauthorized an assessment on hospitals that's expected to draw down roughly $1.4 billion in matching federal Medicaid dollars this year. It then redistributes the money to favor hospitals that treat higher proportions of Medicaid enrollees.
Meanwhile, the bill boosts Medicaid reimbursements for ambulance services by a projected $126 million a year in federal and state aid. The reimbursement includes ground and air transportation.

Under the provision, the state must start reimbursing emergency medical service agencies for every mile traveled with a patient who is covered by Medicaid. Currently, the state reimburses for travel only beyond 20 miles with a Medicaid enrollee.

The state also will boost Medicaid reimbursements for ambulance services to the Medicare rate, if that rate is higher than the Medicaid rate. In some cases, that could mean more than doubling the current $4 per mile reimbursement rate, lawmakers said.

The bill also provides a legislative fix to Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes that the facilities had sought to avoid volatility in new rates set by the state. Nursing home advocates have warned that the new reimbursement rates could put some facilities out of business.