HARTSELLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A developing story we first brought you Tuesday night. Hartselle's only ambulance service has shut down. As of noon today, emergency medical calls are handled by First Response Ambulance Service.
This is the third EMS provider in Morgan County that has gone under in just the last year. WHNT News 19 has followed this story for almost two years now.
All three of the failed companies have cited problems with Medicare and Medicaid payments. And that has become the industry's so-called bread and butter. Not so much the car crashes or other emergencies you see on the nightly news, but the many non-emergency calls they must answer.
Candi Hayes, the owner of Crossroads Ambulance, too upset to speak on-camera, but told us she blames the Affordable Care Act for her company's problems. More specifically, Hayes said, "Medicare and Medicaid are behind on paying claims. We have some statements still open from back in October and November. If it takes them 8 to 9 months to pay a claim, how am I supposed to pay my employees?"
Hayes said she couldn't pay them, and said she was "not going to ask them to stay on a hope and a dream. It's unfortunate for all of us."
"There's kinda been an issue with Medicare and Medicaid payments not being received on time and things of that nature," said Hartselle Mayor Don Hall. He added, "I know the ambulance service prior to Crossroads had issue with that, also. And for a small company thats trying to make a go of it, they need to be able to get those payments in a more timely manner."
Hartselle, along with the Town of Falkville, both entered an emergency agreement with Decatur's First Response Ambulance Service to provide coverage throughout the area. Ambulances have been stationed in both towns and in-between in order to provide a quicker response time.
The town councils in both Hartselle and Falkville will meet Tuesday night and decide how to best move forward from here. For now, both areas are adequately covered. Officials in both towns say its important to stress if residents in those areas dial 911 needing an ambulance, there will be help available.
Hartselle Mayor Don Hall says he has explored several options, including the city buying their own ambulances, a move he described as very expensive. He says another possibility may be the creation a county-wide EMS system, patterned after HEMSI. No specific plans are in the works, however, at this time.