On June 21, 2007 Governor Edward G. Rendell signed into law Senate bill 218 which changed the name of the Emergency and Municipal Services tax to the Local Services Tax.
The purpose of the change, Governor Rendell said, is to help emergency medical service (EMS) providers who saw a significant drop in voluntary donations after the tax first was enacted.
"When this tax was known as the 'EMS' tax, many people wrongly assumed that they no longer needed to voluntarily support local emergency medical services - and this confusion created a financial hardship for many EMS departments," the Governor said. "Changing the name of this tax to clarify that it is for all local services should end any confusion, and I hope Pennsylvanians will generously support local EMS providers."
Tri-Community South EMS is an intergovernmental cooperative owned and operated by the Municipality of Bethel Park, the Township of South Park, and the Township of Upper St. Clair.
As such, it enjoys the full support of the local governments in the communities it serves. However, it does not use local municipal tax revenues to fund its operations.
All revenue comes from subscriptions, insurance reimbursements, user fees, and grants. Recently each of these revenue streams has decreased:
Subscription support from citizens has been eroded by the deceptively named EMS Tax that supports municipal services, not emergency medical services.
Tri-Community South EMS receives no revenue from the "EMS" tax, which replaced an occupational privilege tax. This new EMS tax is an "Emergency and Municipal Services Tax" collected and used by local municipalities and does not fund local Emergency Medical Services.
Although it has the same acronym, the enactment of this new tax has seriously impacted local EMS systems by decreasing operating revenue and donations.
Businesses in the community are often controlled by national and international parent companies who refuse to support local EMS.
Many will not even subscribe to the basic service even when these same businesses demand the very highest levels of service response.
In general, EMS is a victim of a culture that says, "I demand this service, but I want someone else to pay for it."
Medicare and other insurers continue to restrict the amount they pay for ambulance service and exclude more services from eligibility for reimbursement.
Some insurers refuse to pay EMS providers directly for service, sending payment to the insured person who often keep the payment, forcing a court settlement for usually less than the billed amount.
Tri-Community South EMS is not a participating provider with any insurance company because participating ambulance providers are paid a very minimal amount per emergency ambulance trip, which is not a sufficient reimbursement to cover our expenses.
Ambulance services which are participating providers have contracts with various insurance companies, but they are not municipal services.
Support from federal and state governments has been almost totally eliminated in recent years.
Emergency Medical Services receive less than 5% of Department of Homeland Security grant support, even though EMS providers comprise more than 33% of all Homeland Security first responders and are likely to be the most critical first responders in any security emergency.