VMSC's North Penn
Municipal Funding Request
A Call to Action - The Municipal Support Request
Over the past year, VMSC and the North Penn municipal managers have explored ambulance funding.
Over the next few months, VMSC will present a funding proposal for municipal boards to consider.
VMSC invites North Penn municipalities to join hands in securing the future of community-driven mobile healthcare. By supporting VMSC, municipalities play a pivotal role in safeguarding the well-being of their residents and contributing to a thriving, resilient community.
Here is a copy of VMSC’s Ask to Each Municipality based on service usage and population:
Transforming Lives Through Quality Care
VMSC is not just an EMS provider; it is a dynamic force with over 120 EMTs, paramedics, and rescue professionals committed to continuous improvement. With thousands of hours dedicated to training and education yearly, VMSC has evolved into a community-driven entity, placing community well-being at the heart of its mission.
Outstanding Operational Progress
VMSC’s journey toward excellence is evident in its operational advancements. What once stood as 1.8 ambulances for 120,000 people has transformed into 7 ambulances, strategically placed to cater to fluctuating demand. Response times have drastically improved, reducing from 16 minutes and 22 seconds to an impressive 6 minutes and 18 seconds. This achievement surpasses the national average response time, underscoring VMSC’s dedication to swift and efficient care.
Clinical Excellence and Innovation
VMSC’s commitment to excellence extends to its clinical outcomes. With an Advanced Airway Success rate of 95% and a Cardiac Arrest ROSC rate of 41%, VMSC’s impact is far-reaching and lifesaving. The organization is at the forefront of innovation, with initiatives such as the Sedation Assisted Intubation pilot program and non-opiate pain management options like nitrous oxide. These programs allow VMSC to continue to improve the lives of our community members and reduce the risks of mortality and morbidity.
A Voice of the Community
VMSC’s engagement with the community is not just a formality; it’s an integral part of its approach. Through surveys conducted after EMS interactions, VMSC consistently earns high praise, with 97.37% of respondents acknowledging the politeness and respect of the ambulance crew. This open feedback loop ensures that VMSC continuously improves its services to exceed community expectations.
Addressing National EMS Challenges Locally
VMSC’s strength contrasts with the nationwide struggles facing EMS services. Economic pressures, staffing issues, and payment challenges resonate across the country. VMSC’s proactive stance in securing its financial future is a call to action for the North Penn communities to safeguard their EMS infrastructure.
Despite these achievements, VMSC faces challenges that demand attention. Responding to un/under-insured patients, economic pressures, supply chain issues, and staffing costs are real concerns. As a dedicated community partner, VMSC seeks municipal support to ensure its ability to provide high-quality, sustainable EMS care for the future.
The Need for Sustainable Support
VMSC’s fiscal overview reveals a commitment to financial prudence. While operating at a small surplus for FY 2023, VMSC recognizes the importance of sustainability for growth and innovation. To ensure long-term success, VMSC is seeking a range of $1 to $1.5 million collectively from North Penn Municipalities, earmarked for essential needs such as equipment replacement, quality staffing, and clinical expansion.
VMSC EMS is primarily funded by insurance reimbursement, which covers approximately 86% of expenses, leaving a 14% gap in the operating budget.
VMSC bridges that gap in expenses with subscriptions, capital giving, and non-911 ancillary projects, which are unpredictable.
An Unwavering Vote of Confidence
VMSC’s dedication to its mission has resonated with local communities. Demonstrating their commitment before a formal ask was made, Montgomery Township and Towamencin Township allocated $100,000 and $30,000 respectively in their budgets last year to support their EMS systems. These actions reflect the profound trust and appreciation these municipalities have for VMSC’s crucial role.
Community-Centric Approach to Funding
VMSC’s journey towards financial sustainability is underpinned by a vision that encompasses the entire North Penn Community. Acknowledging the strength of unity, VMSC embarked on discussions with every North Penn Municipal Manager in January, laying the groundwork for a collaborative approach to securing high-quality EMS services, culminating now with presentations to every North Penn municipal board.
View VMSC's Municipal Support Presentation
Being presented to all North Penn Municipal Boards in August and September 2023
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is VMSC?
Founded 90 years ago in 1933 by Dr. Frank E. Boston, a WWI veteran, and African American surgeon, as Volunteer Medical Service Corps of Lansdale. VMSC Emergency Medical Services today is a community first EMS provider that also provides K9 Search and Rescue and Drone services, Tactical Paramedics, community training, and community outreach.
What is VMSC asking for?
VMSC is asking our municipalities to provide community funding to help support and maintain EMS in our communities. Between the municipalities in the North Penn area, we are seeking $1-$1.5 million.
Why the need?
The cost to provide EMS is not covered by insurance reimbursement alone. VMSC is currently funded by insurance reimbursement, subscription fees, grants, and donations. The cost of providing efficient, effective, high-quality EMS care is on the rise. Many costs cannot be recovered, yet the PA Municipal Code requires the services to be provided.
What is VMSC’s Corporate Status?
VMSC is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit organization.
Who is VMSC governed by?
VMSC is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of municipal managers, business leaders, healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and community members.
Is VMSC a Career or Volunteer organization?
Established as a volunteer organization in 1933, VMSC recognized the all-volunteer model was no longer sustainable and career providers were necessary for the benefit of the organization and the community. Currently, 95% of our EMS providers are career personnel, while our K9 Search and Rescue operations remain volunteer.
How is VMSC currently funded?
VMSC does not currently receive dedicated tax-based funding. Revenue is comprised of insurance reimbursement and the subscription program. Funding is also received from grants and donations.
Why not just raise the rates of a transport?
VMSC EMS does re-evaluate it’s charge rates on an annual basis just like any other business. Rates are usually adjusted up based on a realistic market percentage. We will further break down this question into two more parts:
Federal Payors (Medicare and Medicaid) – Unless the federal payors increase their reimbursement rates, raising rates does not impact federal reimbursement. Federal payors have a max amount they will reimburse, which is a set amount and not a percentage.
Commercial Payors – Are the ones that are truly impacted by any rate change. Because they usually pay a good portion of the bill, they are usually impacted. However, this is not guaranteed. Commercial payors get to choose how much they pay of the total bill, and many variables impact that.
We are required by law to bill everyone under the same rate structure. So we put a sample bill through a few examples.
First, the red bar on the right are patients that do not have insurance, and are what we consider ‘self pay’. When they are transported by EMS, they receive the same request for reimbursement as anyone else, but the number of folks that pay (or have the ability to) are very low.
Second, the third column (Commercial Insurance) is the insurance that you typically get from your employer like Blue Cross, Aetna, Highmark, etc. When we send them a bill, they typically pay most of it, and most people have some sort of co-pay (like when you go to your dentist or doctor’s office). Please note that this is only 10% of our calls.
Lastly are the two columns on the far left, Medicare and Medicaid, which make up approximately 75% of the patients we transport. These payors have set amounts they will pay for each service as shown by the dark green section. In order to receive payment from these payors you must agree to write off the remaining portion of the bill, known as a contractual allowance This is shown as the yellow section.
Reimbursement Data and Graph produced by Monongalia Emergency Medical Services, Inc.
What exactly is a Subscription?
Our ability to operate depends on being reimbursed for each emergency 9-1-1 call. When you consider all the training and equipment that goes into running a critical, life-saving service, emergency calls cost as high as $2,500. Unfortunately, most insurance companies cover less than 50% of that expense; the rest is billed TO YOU, the patient. As a VMSC subscriber, you not only support the ability to provide you and your neighbors with emergency 9-1-1 services, but you also protect yourself from being billed for the incurred emergency costs not covered by your insurance when service is provided by VMSC.
Who else is facing an EMS crisis?
The EMS crisis is nationwide. Every day there is a new report of an EMS organization closing its doors. Across the country, EMS agencies are fighting an uphill battle of recruiting and retaining EMTs and paramedics coupled with flat or decreasing reimbursement. Just since July 2023, two more agencies in PA have closed their doors.
Is taxpayer funding feasible?
Certainly. When individuals collectively contribute even small amounts towards a particular cost, the burden of that expense gets distributed across the entire group. This distribution of financial responsibility results in a reduced individual impact, as the cost is shared by many. Essentially, by pooling together these smaller contributions, the overall financial strain on any single person is lessened, making the expenditure more manageable and equitable for everyone involved. This approach fosters a sense of shared responsibility and helps prevent any one individual from bearing an excessive financial load.
What happens if the funding doesn’t go through?
VMSC strives to maintain an active presence in our community providing our services and staging our trucks at many community events. Being able to continue to support these unreimbursed activities would have to be examined.
Can’t you just get funding from the state or federal government?
In the U.S., the funding for EMS care primarily occurs on a local scale. Variations exist among states, with some opting for a centralized EMS framework, while others grant autonomy to local administrations for creating, financing, and executing their own EMS systems. Local government funding stems from various sources such as taxes, predominantly property taxes, user fees or subscriptions, and bonds.
Why do some municipalities fund EMS and some don’t?
Each municipality manages its own budget and must be responsible to its taxpayers. Two municipalities (Montgomery and Towamencin Townships) were able to include funds for VMSC in their 2023 budgets. Over the coming months, VMSC will present a funding proposal for municipal boards to consider for their 2024 budgets.
What can be done to sustain EMS?
Municipal funding marks the initial stride in securing the future of EMS services. It remains imperative to consistently explore avenues for enhancing the service delivery model. While elevating reimbursement rates holds significance, it alone won’t suffice to resolve the challenges facing EMS. Forward-looking government entities, healthcare systems, communities, and the general public must acknowledge the existence of these challenges. Subsequently, a comprehensive strategy needs to be formulated and executed to tackle these issues. The County Commission’s commitment to devising a viable plan underscores their dedication to the well-being of their constituents. Our unified aspiration revolves around ensuring the availability of a safety net for the county’s residents, whenever the need arises.
Continual evolution within the EMS profession remains imperative, irrespective of whether it pertains to a career-based department or a group of dedicated volunteers providing the service. Given the increasingly complex healthcare landscape and the persistent health challenges faced by the population, adapting our approach remains pivotal. We diligently contribute to upholding a robust safety net, much like a reliable net requiring some level of support to function effectively.
VMSC's Story of Redefining... Community-First
VMSC Emergency Medical Services is redefining the way we support our community every day. Check out our agencies story to see how our team is accomplishing this every day.
Press Release - August 11, 2023
August 11, 2023
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
- Contact Information:
- Laura Smith, Director of Public Affairs
- VMSC Emergency Medical Services
- 175 Medical Campus Drive
- Lansdale, PA 19446
LANSDALE, PA (August 11, 2023)—VMSC Emergency Medical Services, headquartered in Hatfield, PA, is taking a critical step forward to address evolving issues surrounding Pennsylvania’s emergency medical services (EMS) crisis.
The closure of two Pennsylvania EMS agencies in the past month highlights the struggle realized across the Commonwealth and the Nation for ambulance providers and local communities. The issues surround critical staff shortages, under and uninsured patients, increased operating expenses, and low or no local government funding. Contrary to what many people think, most EMS agencies do not receive dedicated tax funding like fire and police. Municipal funding currently accounts for less than 1% of VMSC’s budget. VMSC EMS is primarily funded by insurance reimbursement, which covers approximately 86% of expenses, leaving a 14% gap in the operating budget. VMSC bridges that gap in expenses with subscriptions, capital giving, and non-911 ancillary projects, which are unpredictable.
VMSC EMS has not been immune from the impact of this crisis; in 2021, VMSC could not staff all its stations, and staffing levels dropped to under 50%. These staffing shortfalls exacerbated an already overburdened and stressed EMS staff who were fatigued and recovering from two years of the COVID pandemic, but it also impacted VMSC’s ability to respond to emergency calls and significantly increased the time people had to wait for an ambulance. VMSC’s future was in question, and barely able to staff 1.8 ambulances on average. VMSC’s Board of Directors and local municipal managers formulated a plan to avoid closure. At the insistence of the municipal managers, VMSC adjusted its by-laws and hired a career Chief, the first in the organization’s history. VMSC reorganized and initialized VMSC’s Emergency Reserve Funds to invest nearly a million dollars into employment compensation and benefits, expanded its clinical services by adding a new medical direction team, enhanced medical treatments, and upgraded its ambulance fleet.
The efforts over the past 2-years to improve the ninety-year-old North Penn ambulance provider paid off for the citizens of North Penn. In 2021, VMSC had a systemwide average response time that exceeded sixteen minutes and only operated 1.8 ambulances on average. Today, VMSC’s average systemwide response time is less than eight minutes, and it operates seven ambulances on average to serve the 120,000 people who live and work in North Penn. VMSC’s EMS ambulance staffing is consistently at 95%, and it has established staff retention sustainability programs that include an internal VMSC-funded Paramedic training program that will graduate ten paramedics in 2024.
When ambulance services close, the impact is drastic. In an ambulance response time study by Elizabeth Wilde of Columbia University, a one-minute response time increase resulted in an 8% – 17% increase in mortality in cases of stroke and cardiac arrests. The burden is also felt regionally as other ambulance services become strained and now must respond to the areas previously served by the collapsed system, thereby creating operational challenges and fiscal barriers to care for those ambulance providers and their communities.
People have expectations when they call for an ambulance; among those are that: they expect a quick response, competent, appropriate, and compassionate care, and to arrive safely at an emergency department. Funding is crucial to meet people’s expectations. VMSC has invested heavily in training, clinical advancements, and operations to improve the lives of the people in the North Penn community. The municipal funding VMSC seeks is an investment in improving people’s survival and quality of life when an emergency occurs.
Over the past year, VMSC and the North Penn municipal managers have explored ambulance funding. Over the next few months, VMSC will present a funding proposal for municipal boards to consider. Montgomery and Towamencin Townships’ elected officials included EMS funding in their 2023 budgets. This funding made it possible to launch the VMSC 2023-24 Paramedic Education Program in partnership with Jefferson Health’s EMS Program Education Center.
VMSC is requesting municipal funding to address the critical operational and fiscal sustainability areas, including staff retention, capital equipment replacement, and improving clinical performance to reduce morbidity and mortality in the Region. VMSC has posted its proposal and other information on its website as references in the link below.