In an analysis presented by city leadership Monday, it’s too early to tell if the less than one-year-old city-run ambulance service will make or lose money.
Monthly ambulance calls, revenue
Adjusted expenses and actual-received revenue over the first six months of the year show the service is at a $142,986 loss so far. However, insurance reimbursements are slow, as are patient co-payments paid. There is also $179,764 in pending revenues, but it’s unclear how much of that balance the city will end up receiving.
In the end, though, there’s hope the service will break even or maybe even be profitable, city administrator Jason Fraser said Thursday. However, as he said Monday and reiterated Thursday, it’s too early to necessarily guarantee a specific number either way.
In his report to the council, Fraser said current numbers would indicate the service could do as well as a $74,000 profit or a loss of more than a quarter-million.
“I would like to provide a more firm number and say, ‘This is exactly where we’re going to hit,’” Fraser said. “But, we just don’t have the data for that. And there are a few things that have caused such a large gap … like the insurance and payments.”
The city created the service after a private, for-profit company stated it was going to pull out unless large subsidy payments were made. It officially launched in January this year but began taking calls part-time in December after that service pulled-out of the market.
Fraser said numbers should be a bit more firm by January 2020 — the one-year anniversary of the service. But it could be January 2021 before the service can be accurately assessed.
Upcoming changes could impact the service positively. The city is eyeing being more active at facility-to-facility transports, which typically are far more friendly to an ambulance service’s bottom-line and could offset any losses for emergency responses. The service has done a few of those transports, Fraser said, but to be more active in that department could require more staff and an additional ambulance in the future.
Additionally, the state is working on a ground emergency transportation program which could raise the amount Medicaid reimburses for calls.
The program has been approved by the federal level but is still waiting on approval from the state’s Medicaid program.
There is also the potential for some grant funding to be received by the city, as well.
Beyond financial numbers, the service is running strong. Fraser said data is showing that the city-run ambulance service is making it on the scene in a faster time than previous services took to go en route.
“I think that’s pretty amazing,” Fraser said. “When minutes count, they’ve improved that. And that figure is pretty important to me.”
On Monday, the service answered its 1,000th call for service and over the first six months of the year answered 10 percent more calls than originally projected.