OKLAHOMA CITY - Senator Jim Reynolds wants to make sure Oklahomans have a choice when it comes to non-emergency medical transportation. However under current law, a person who cannot be transported sitting up and who needs assistance has no legal choice but to call an ambulance service, which can cost hundreds of dollars more than a non-emergency stretcher service.
"There are some people who have medical conditions that make it too difficult or uncomfortable to be transported sitting up, but they don't really need a full blown ambulance service for these non-emergency trips. Up until a year or two ago, they had the option of calling a "stretcher" service to take them to routine doctor's appointments or other destinations. However the State Health Department has since determined those services are not allowed under their rules. That needs to change," said Senator Reynolds, R-OKC.
In the closing weeks of the session, Senator Reynolds authored legislation to allow stretcher services to operate in Oklahoma. The language was included in Senate Bill 741, which was approved by the full legislature and is awaiting final action by Governor Frank Keating. If signed into law, the State Health Department would then establish the standards those services would have to meet in order to be certified to operate. Senator Reynolds said the rules would likely allow stretcher service only in the state's largest metropolitan areas.
"Obviously, we need to set standards to make sure that fly-by-night operators lacking basic qualifications don't take advantage of the situation. But we also want to ensure consumers have a real choice of affordable, non-emergency transportation services," explained Reynolds.
Senator Reynolds said this was especially important for Oklahomans because Medicare, Medicaid and many insurance companies will not pay for non-emergency medical transportation. A non-emergency round trip by ambulance could cost at least $750, as opposed to a "stretcher" service which could charge as little as $145.
"I'm hopeful Governor Keating will sign this legislation. Once that happens, it will be up to the Health Department to adopt standards that give Oklahomans an affordable, safe choice for non-emergency transportation," said Senator Reynolds.