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CNY Fire Departments Look to Recover Ambulance Costs in State Legislature Proposal

Central New York’s rural fire departments that also provide ambulance services are hoping state lawmakers take action on critical legislation before they wrap up session this week.  The EMS cost recovery bill has sponsors in both houses of the legislature.  Executive Director of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs Jerry Deluca says New York is the only state in the nation that prohibits fire department ambulance services from billing for their expenses.

They’re treated differently than privately-owned ambulances or not-for-profit ambulance services, which can recover costs from insurance, such as private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.  The legislation we’re pursuing would allow fire department ambulances to be treated in the same way as all other ambulance services.”


Deluca says 460 departments have ambulance services across New York, and provide an estimated $100 million in services that they can’t recover.  Most of them are in rural areas and staffed by volunteers who want to provide the service to the community.  But Deluca says the high cost of training, recruitment, retention, and even paying some EMT’s has forced many departments to shed their ambulances.

“The fact that fire departments can’t bill means they can’t hire people because they need to hire because of the amount of training.  So that’s especially important because fire department ambulances service a lot of rural areas where the for-profit ambulances are such a distance away.” 

Deluca says this puts lives at risk.  He says the cost recovery bill is still in committee in both houses, and they’ll continue to push for a vote during the waning days of session.  

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at