POINT PLEASANT — “This is easy to talk about because it’s important.”
These were the words of Glen Washington, CEO of Pleasant Valley Hospital, when talking about the upcoming EMS operating levy which voters will decide in November. Washington, who is also on the EMS levy committee appointed by the Mason County Commission, recently sat down to talk with the Point Pleasant Register about PVH’s relationship with Mason County EMS and the hospital’s stance on the levy.
PVH is the only trauma center in the area and Washington says he and his staff see the need to maintain local EMS services everyday.
“We at Pleasant Valley Hospital understand how the community relies on high quality EMS services…everyday we have Mason County EMS trucks rolling up to our emergency room doors,” Washington said. “They are bringing in patients with a variety of illnesses – heart attacks, strokes, accidents of all sorts – and most often, and we understand, those first responders are the first line of defense when it comes to helping someone who is in an immediate health crisis. They’re first on the scene, they know what to do with patients to stabilize them until they get them into our emergency room and to a higher level of care. These are highly-trained individuals.”
Washington then spoke about how EMS personnel are often in communication with emergency room staff at PVH while en route and how both entities work together to improve patient care and outcomes.
As previously reported, the levy resolution passed by the Mason County Commission states it will generate $766,691 annually, which means it will raise a total of $3.8 million over the course of its five-year term. If passed, the levy would go into effect July 1, 2017 and expire on July 1, 2021. At least 60 percent of all votes cast will be needed to approve the levy. If the levy fails, the future of Mason County EMS is questionable and could possibly be gone.
When breaking down these numbers for the individual taxpayer, the EMS levy committee members say, a homeowner in Mason County who has a home with an appraised value of $100,000, would have their taxes raise $30 a year if the levy passes. Homeowners with homes appraised at $50,000 would see taxes raise $15 per year; homeowners with homes appraised at $150,000 would see taxes raise $45 a year.
If the EMS levy passes, it would also result in zero-balance billing. This means the ambulance service is first billed to Medicare, Medicaid and/or private insurance. The patient is not billed for anything not covered by Medicare, Medicaid and/or private insurance. This means a patient will have a “zero balance” and will owe nothing for services after any sort of payment by Medicare, Medicaid and/or or insurance, even if these entities only pay a portion of the bill for services. Federal law requires the county bill Medicare for ambulance services first and if the levy passes, a patient will not be required to pay a co-pay to the county for emergency ambulance services. This zero-balance billing is for emergency ambulance services only.
EMS levy’s are common though Mason County is one of only a handful of counties in West Virginia which doesn’t have an EMS operating levy, Washington said. Though Washington isn’t a resident of Mason County, he said he does pay taxes on an EMS levy in the county where he resides and said he personally had to utilize those services when his elderly father was in need.
“We (at PVH) wholeheartedly support the levy,” Washington said.
Dylan Handley, who is also on the EMS levy committee, said he’s hoping to get more opportunities to speak about the levy and answer questions. Handley said he’s happy to speak to anyone or any groups, no matter how big or small the venue, including church groups, rotary, chamber of commerce and CEOS meetings, senior center gatherings, and more. He said he is available and can be reached at 304-593-2271.
In addition to Washington and Handley, also on the levy committee are Phyllis Arthur, Lisa Gangwer, Ashley Cossin, Bob Baird.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.