The Douglas County Ambulance Service's rates and policies today were examined under a microscope by its director and the county commission in an effort to shift more of the payment burden to consumers and insurance providers and away from county taxpayers.
None of the proposals were adopted today. The commission set a public hearing on the proposed policy and rate changes during its Oct. 30 meeting.
Ted McFarlane, DCAS director, gave the commission several graphs and statistics that showed that the county is charging less than what Medicare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield will reimburse and also less than the average among 16 ambulance services surveyed in Kansas.
For example, the county's base rate for an emergency call is $178. That amount is less than Medicare's $285 allowable rate, Blue Cross' $238.25 and the $220.38 survey average.
From the four revenue-raising options McFarlane outlined to the commission, he recommended the following rate increases to the maximum allowed by Blue Cross in 1992:
Emergency call base rate from $178 to $250.
Routine call base rate from $98 to $121.
Mileage rate from $4 to $4.25.
McFarlane calculated that these rate increases would raise an additional $97,203 for DCAS next year. Advantages from this increase included reducing the future tax need from the county, he said. Conversely, the disadvantages included a hardship on fixed income uninsured patients and a likely increase in DCAS's bad debt percentage.
"(It) is a pro-taxpayer option and an anti-customer policy," McFarlane said.
The average age of people transported by DCAS is 57, he said.
In policy matters, McFarlane recommended that the county continue to accept assignments on all Medicare claims. He wrote in his outline, "This is a service to our older patients and recognizes the fixed income status of many of them."
McFarlane also advised that the county continue its practice of sending a "paramedic level transport" for services considered as emergency when dispatched. The commission asked that he change his recommendation to discontinue the out-of-county surcharge for calls that either begin or end in another county to only calls that originate outside Douglas County. McFarlane said most of these calls occur in Jefferson and Leavenworth counties because DCAS is able to respond faster than other ambulance services to the southern parts of those counties.
In other business, the commission:
Inspected the county's newest ambulance.
Appointed commissioner Mark Buhler and County Administrator Chris McKenzie to a consultant selection committee for Horizon 2020.
Approved the following consent agenda items: a request by Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells to spend $2,500 from the Equipment Reserve Fund for computer equipment and an engagement letter with Agler & Gaeddert for preparing the 1991 annual audit report.