Manatee County administrators to propose increase in EMS fees

jtate@bradenton.comOctober 1, 2013 

MANATEE -- County administrators will propose increasing fees for emergency medical services and allowing competition for the first time in three decades for non-emergency transport services.

Ronald Koper Jr., interim director for the public safety department, said the proposed user fee increase will allow EMS to make roughly $200,000 more from services. Revenue from services is now $8.5 million.

The total EMS budget is $12.1 million -- and the difference is now covered by the county general fund, or taxpayers.

"We want to make sure that we are continuing with our agenda to get off the general fund as much as possible," said Koper.

If approved, the basic life support non-emergency fee will increase 23.8 percent from $323 to $400, and the basic life support emergency fee will increase 22.8 percent from $407 to $500.

Koper said the increase will bring the county up to comparable rates in neighboring counties.

The county has not changed the fee resolution since 2008, Koper said. Along with the resolution changes, officials will consider opening inter-facility transport to competition.

West Coast Southern Medical Services Inc. has been the only company to provide inter-facility transport for 30 years in Manatee County, said county administrator Edwin Hunzeker.

"If West Coast decided for whatever reason they couldn't do business anymore, we don't have enough vehicles to pick up for them," said Hunzeker. "There ought to be at least one other provider for this service in case there was a problem."

Carole McGowan, West Coast vice president, said there is no need for multiple ambulance services in the county.

"Any ambulance company that wanted to come in, needs to prove the need for their services based on evidence they present," said McGowan.

She said the county has not complained about their services thus far.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a nurse, said she wants to hear the entire presentation on EMS fees from staff before she takes a stance. But she said Monday she is not sure if raising fees will make a difference when insurance will cover only a set amount.

"Insurance will only pay a certain amount. Most are decreasing their reimbursement for everything," she said.

County commissioners will meet for this workshop at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Manatee Room.

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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