Ems Fuel Costs

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Running head: FUEL COSTS EFFECTING EMS

How Rising Fuel Cost Effect EMS Agencies

Eric Hatcher

EMS 280

6 May 08

How Rising Fuel Cost Effect EMS Agencies

As the prices of fuel increase nationwide, it isn’t only the local residents that feel the pinch of higher fuel prices. Those responsible for fueling ambulances, fire engines, and police cars are also battling the soaring transportation costs.

Granted, this problem affects everyone in the EMS industry, but it is even worse on privately owned squads. Most, if not all of the county or state funded agencies have a budget allotment for fuel costs, and that amount is usually replenished by tax dollars yearly.

For the privately owned company, this annual government replenishment doesn’t exist and this money has to come from somewhere. This means that the private services must suffer cutbacks in extra “luxury items” (pre-made IV start packs for example), parking Type I and III ambulances and utilizing more “fuel efficient” Type II units, and cutting down on engine idle times just to name a few.

These companies also are forced to come up with these extra funds by being forced to withhold employees’ raises, perform station upgrades, freeze ancillary spending, the list could go on.

The meter does not start running — at a rate of $10.63 a mile (Jan Care Ambulance of West Virginias current mileage rate) — until after a patient is on the way to the hospital. But there are other costs that have also been increasing.

The two things that create the biggest dent in the ambulance service budget are fuel and manpower. Additionally, there are costs for insurance, equipment, maintenance and training, and covering unpaid bills. Collection rates for EMS historically have really been low. They range from 40 to 60 percent on average.

Ambulance services are to the point where they have cut back as much as you can, and there’s only so much you can cut to keep units on the road. Ambulances average about 10 miles per gallon on diesel fuel, which hovered around $2.99 a gallon for a while, but is now above $4.00 a gallon.

Company managers say they can’t increase fees because Medicare and Medicaid do not negotiate on reimbursements. As much as 70 percent of private companies business is with Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Medicare, which insures the elderly and disabled, set payments for this year before the most recent surge in fuel prices. Medicaid, the state-run program for the poor, hasn’t raised reimbursement rates in six years. Ambulance companies say there is little room to shift costs to hospitals and nursing homes, which sign multiyear contracts.

So in this time of fuel despair, from an administrative point of view, a private ambulance service owner must look at all aspects of the business and try to “trim the fat” in whatever means necessary.

Even though the high price of fuel may keep some from traveling or making unnecessary trips, ambulances are busier than ever. The high prices have made many people decide to use the ambulance for “high priced taxi cabs.” Instead of using their vehicle to take themselves to the hospital or doctor’s appointment, they are calling the ambulance.

This in-turn creates higher insurance claims, higher hospital bills, and longer wait times for patients in the emergency room and impatient rooms at the hospital.

The other problems created by this “solution” for the general public to save their gas by using the ambulance is that the ambulances, which are normally stationed strategically in a given community, are now not available for legitimate needs for emergency care in that area because they are responding on non-life threatening calls.

The public or government funded agencies are faced with a different...
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