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EMS rate increase goes back to the drawing board


Rates for the Petersburg EMS ambulance service will soon be increased to help the service keep pace with rising costs, though a proposal considered by the Assembly at Monday’s regular meeting was tabled to allow more time for EMS Director Sandy Dixson to pull together information about the cost of running the local service.

Currently, there is a flat rate of $300 charged for the service. That fee hasn’t been increased since 2002 and Dixson pointed out that comparable communities in Southeast charge much more. The proposal before the Assembly included a rate increase and a move away from the flat-rate system to one that includes different rates based on the kind and level of service provided. The rates ranged from $300 for non-emergent, basic life support to over $800 for emergent, advanced life support, plus a mileage fee of $7.40.

However, the ordinance with the rate changes was tabled after assembly members expressed concern about whether or not the proposed rates were reflective of the actual cost to run the various services in the Borough. Dixson did study the rates of nearby communities, but the proposed rates were based on the Medicare allowable reimbursement (MAR).

“Referencing the Medicare allowable was purely because they stay with the national standards,” Dixson explained. “They do surveys, they find out what the average cost is of ambulance services to transport and treat patients.”

Assembly members Jeigh Stanton Gregor and Bob Lynn said they agreed that a rate increase was necessary but that a new rate structure should reflect the actual cost of providing the service locally.

“I’d like to see it (rate survey) done more accurately. This seems a little bit loose to me at this point,” Stanton Gregor said, clarifying that by “accurate” he meant what it costs to run the local services.

Lynn said he’d like to see a multi-tiered system that accounts for where a patient lives and the cost of using the harbor boat to provide emergency services to individuals living off of Mitkof Island.

“I think that we ought to look at, or we ought to make some estimate of, what our actual costs are to do that type of thing,” he added.

Dixson estimated that the average cost of an ambulance run is around $359, though that doesn’t account for several costs associated with running the volunteer program including training costs, insurance, housing the vehicles and other expenses. She said that linking local rates with the MAR would ease the burden doing rate studies each time a rate increase is needed. Currently the fire and EMS have only two paid staff to execute such administrative tasks.

Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht reiterated Dixson’s point: “As Medicare changes their rates, ours could change without having to go through the whole process all over again.”

Finance Director Jody Tow said that she’s put a request in with the billing company to get a breakdown of the cost of different services. Tow and Dixson will work together to provide more detailed cost information to the Assembly at a future meeting.


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