Tulsa City Council votes to move EMSA rate hike 'sunset' back 3 months
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Friday, December 21, 2012
12/21/12 at 5:55 AM
Read past stories and view documents related to the Tulsa World’s investigation of EMSA’s billing and spending practices.
Tulsa's City Council voted Thursday to move the "sunset clause" on EMSA's emergency ambulance transport rate increases from Dec. 31 to March 31 to provide enough time to get the results of an investigative audit of the agency.
The state Auditor and Inspector's Office started the audit in September and is in the process of reviewing its findings and writing a report, Emergency Medical Services Authority CEO Steve Williamson told councilors.
"We don't know exactly when it's going to be released, but they won't make that December date," he said.
In June, councilors approved an increase in the charge for an emergency ambulance transport to $1,300 from $1,100, effective July 1. But because the investigative audit was forthcoming, they agreed to that only after attaching a sunset clause that was to make the fee revert to $1,100 after Dec. 31.
If the council was satisfied with the findings of the audit, it could at that time keep the rate increase in place.
The council had been advised by city legal staff members that otherwise it wouldn't be able to go back and lower the rate if it were unhappy with the audit's findings unless EMSA asked that it be done.
EMSA's board voted in May to pursue the audit after the Tulsa World's coverage of its billing and collections practices, travel expenses and possible conflicts of interest.
Several councilors were hesitant to agree to the rate increase EMSA requested until the audit was complete, but they were also worried about the impact to EMSA's roughly $1.8 million rate stabilization fund.
Williamson said not approving the increase would consume $133,000 per month from the fund.
The hike generates about $1.3 million annually for the agency to pay for higher costs of supplies, fuel and contracted paramedic salary raises.
It does not affect the optional $3.64 per month utility fee for households to be part of EMSA's TotalCare program to avoid out-of-pocket ambulance costs.
Medicare and Medicaid patients, who make up the bulk of EMSA's emergency transports, also are not affected by the increase.
Williamson said the increase is primarily paid by patients' private insurance companies.
Greenwood District: In other business, the council voted to establish formal boundaries for Tulsa's Historic Greenwood District to avoid any confusion with other area districts.
The boundaries are Pine Street, the Frisco Railroad tracks between First and Archer streets, Lansing Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (Cincinnati Avenue).
Original Print Headline: Councilors OK delay in EMSA rate-hike sunset
Brian Barber 918-581-8322