County OKs ambulance rate hike

ESCANABA – The Delta County Board of Commissioners has approved various rate increases for Rampart Emergency Medical Services. The board approved the increases at Tuesday’s county board meeting.

According to Bob Bower, operations supervisor from Rampart EMS, language from a Sept. 2009 contract between the county and Rampart requires them to come before the board if they request any rate increase or modification.

Bower’s request, which received unanimous approval from the county board, will increase the base rate fee for its services by $47.50 to $975. Their mileage fee for emergency calls will rise $1 to $20 per loaded mile, and their transfer mileage fee will increase by $1.50 to $16 per loaded mile.

According to Bower, Rampart has not modified its fee structure since Jan. 1, 2009.

He noted the increases are necessary to help offset the increase in the cost of providing medical services and the decrease in reimbursements the EMS community has endured.

“This obviously can help us offset the increase in fuel and maintenance and at a time that we are seeing a reduction in our reimbursement levels,” he said. “We are currently facing a 2 percent across-the-board cut from Medicare reimbursement. Medicaid at this time is reimbursing us 21 percent of our bill and we are facing a 10 percent cut across-the-board on recurrent dialysis patient transports. Currently we are reimbursed at about 49 cents for every dollar that we bill.”

He noted even with the rate increases, Rampart’s rates will still be 8 to 10 percent lower than some other providers in the region.

Some board members questioned why the county board would need to approve the rate increases.

“I guess I find it interesting that we’re involved in this decision making process,” said board vice-chair Mary Harrington. “I don’t feel that we need to be.”

In response, Bower said he believes the contract language was requested to ensure Rampart would not increase rates whenever they felt appropriate and to do so they would approach the board to get some basis for their request.

“I think it was a unique situation that developed over the course of years,” he said. “The county board has been extremely supportive of Rampart.”

According to Bower, the contract also specifies what Rampart will provide for services within the county, how many vehicles they will maintain, the level of care they will provide, and provides assurance to the county they will have operational ambulance service for residents.

Following the board’s unanimous rate increase approval, board members thanked Rampart for their services to the community and for meeting the highest standards.

In other business, the board:

– approved a grant renewal application request by UPCAP for funds for the West-Central U.P. Regional Community Corrections Program for the fiscal year 2014-15 proposal and application.

– approved out-of-county travel expenses for commissioners to attend the Michigan Association of Counties Annual Conference Sept. 15-17 in Frankenmuth.

-approved a Michigan Department of Transportation contract for an airport security area seating grant for the Delta County Airport. According to airport manager Kelly Smith, the $5,000 grant will be used for rows of seats that are not cloth material, are easy to clean and last a longer time.