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At the regularly scheduled meeting of the Antlers City Council on Monday, December 3, 2012, Antlers Fire Chief Randy Janoe addressed the council about the possible closing of the Antlers EMS services.
Chief Janoe explained to the Council that there was a new contractor handling Medicare claims for the area and they had implemented some changes last week to reinforce a preexisting rule about mileage for ambulance services and payment.
All ambulance runs (transferring of patients from Pushmataha Hospital to another facility) that are over 75 miles in distance will automatically be declined and the EMS will have to justify in an appeals process why it was necessary for them to transfer the patient to that facility and have paperwork to prove the legitimacy of the claim.
Based on past months of operations, this would end with the EMS loosing approximately $4,600.00 a month, a total of $55,200.00 a year, that is needed to maintain equipment, replace ambulance supplies and keep the station operating.
In the last 11 months, the Antlers EMS had made 190 transfers out of Pushmataha Hospital; and 90 transfers to the metro hospitals (like Tulsaâ€™s St. Francis and OU Medical) in 2011. If proper protocol is not followed by all parties involved, in the future the money spent for those transfers will be lost.
Along with this addition to Medicare protocol, the Antlers EMS faces client debts that keep climbing with no attempt by the clients to make payment. Chief Janoe reports that there is a total of $649,230.00 in bad debt. Approximately $350,000.00 of that debt is extremely delinquent with clients making no attempts to pay off their debts.
When you add the loss of mileage for anything over 75 miles, the climbing bad debt being placed on them by residents refusing to pay, and that it takes $68.00 an hour 27/ 7 to operate, the future begins to look grim for this much needed service.
Over the last five years, 44 other EMS services have been forced to close in the State of Oklahoma alone. Many residents may feel that the tax they already pay should cover everything they need and bad debts but in reality it only pays for about 10% of what is needed.
When the Council asked if there were any ideas how this could be avoided, a Utility Surcharge was brought up. It was in place in Antlers in the past but only was effective for a year. What this would do would be add approximately $4 to residentâ€™s water bills and that would sustain the EMS service. Also, if the residentâ€™s are paying that surplus, it could count to cover their insuranceâ€™s co-pay and for residentâ€™s without insurance, it would make them eligible for a discount.
Nothing was decided at the meeting but it will be discussed in more detail in the future.