Gov. Tony Evers highlighted his plan, as announced at his State of the State address earlier this week, to invest nearly $30 million to support and expand Wisconsin’s emergency medical services (EMS) systems across the state at an event in Baldwin. The state of Wisconsin relies on nearly 800 EMS providers, and more than half are either operated exclusively by volunteers or through a combination of volunteers and paid staff.
“From St. Croix County to Door County, Bayfield County to Kenosha County, EMS is a critically important part of emergency care,” said Gov. Evers. “These folks are our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family who go above and beyond to provide care to our communities under ordinary times and the extraordinary circumstances of the past two years, but this pandemic exposed serious concerns about our healthcare infrastructure and capacity, especially in our rural communities.
“No one should be calling for an ambulance and have to wonder whether help will come. Period,” Gov. Evers continued. “So, I am glad to be providing this investment to support their good work and to help expand emergency care, especially in rural communities across our state.”
Gov. Evers’ investment includes $20 million, provided through the state’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, that will go to EMS providers across the state for whatever help they need the most, whether it’s increasing staffing support, more training for first responders, or purchasing an ambulance, medical equipment, or supplies. Of that $20 million, $8 million will go to the Funding Assistance Program (FAP) which provides annual grants to all public ambulance service providers, including volunteer fire departments, nonprofits, and counties and municipalities. This investment will bring the total funding available to those eligible providers to $10.2 million for fiscal year 2023. The remaining $12 million of this investment will be provided as one-time, flexible grants, prioritizing small, under-resourced EMS providers who do not qualify for FAP to use for whatever they need, including staffing, equipment, supplies, or other expenses.
Additionally, the Wisconsin Medicaid program reimburses private and municipal ambulance providers for emergency medical transportation and the governor’s 2021-23 biennial budget included a rate increase that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. Despite the recent rate increase, Medicaid rates are still below Medicare and commercial rates, contributing to an erosion of EMS provider stability. In light of this, and in addition to the $20 million investment, Gov. Evers created and released a plan to use $7.4 million all funds to implement an additional 16 percent rate increase for emergency transportation providers.