Ambulance district lacking funds

The ambulance district requested Fiscal Court help with their approximate $50,000 bond payment in June to help them stay in the black for the year.

Disturbing news arose from the special called Fiscal Court caucus meeting on Tuesday, May 29, as representatives of the Ambulance District Board, Dale Beighle and Gina Adams, and Ambulance Director Phillip Hart were present to report that the ambulance district did not have the necessary funds to make their June bond payment of $50,000 for the new headquarters and keep the district in the black. They were requesting that the Fiscal Court use LGEA funds to help them make the payment.

The district has a $1.5 million budget for 2017-18  and $800,000 goes to payroll. According to Hart, the cost to staff two ambulances 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 365 days is $705,000. That covers a total of 24 staff members. According to Hart, that is twelve full time employees who receive benefits as well as wages and twelve part time employees who do not receive benefits.

Expenses have increased as the run totals have increased at a substantial rate. They have experienced 300-400 more runs in 2017 over 2016 as more runs are being called to dispatch. They are required to respond to a call whether an ambulance is truly needed or not.

In addition, collection of fees not reimbursed by insurance is in question. While figures presently were not available at the meeting, Hart did indicated that several years ago, they collected at a rate of only 60 percent and presently do not “hard bill” the patients but rather a third party tries to collect.

Medicaid and Medicare patients are also a problem. No matter the cost of the run, Medicaid and Medicare as a rule only reimburse 20-25 percent of the cost of a run. As a result, many of the runs for patients using these federal government plans created a financial deficit for ambulance districts.

Hart indicated there were 42 times Air Evac was used  in 2017 with an average reimbursement cost of $224.

He also indicated that their rates for ambulance runs are very similar to those charges of other neighboring agencies.

Magistrate Gary Veirs pointed out that the LGEA is “an excellent resource for funds but it is an unpredictable income and should not be relied on to cover a fixed expense.” Continued discussion revealed that last year, the Fiscal Court did not receive LGEA funds.

Beighle pointed out that government regulations from higher up is making it more costly. Each comes with an unfunded mandate and two or three could add $20,000-30,000 to a cost of a new ambulance. And with one ambulance having over 200,000 miles and the other approaching that mark, they will very soon be in need of a new ambulance.

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