Stillwater News Press

February 22, 2011

Ambulance trust talks fees and subsidy with City Council

Question raised about previous price decision

By Ricky O'Bannon

STILLWATER, Okla. — Ambulance trust chairman Jerry Moeller tried to address several concerns about the new ambulance service including why the trust asked the service to raise its prices.

Moeller and LifeNet Operations Manager Kelly McCauley gave a presentation on the new service at Monday’s City Council meeting.

LifeNet is scheduled to take over ambulance duties from the Stillwater Fire Department in May.

Public commentators Elvis Pennington and Dr. Sidney Williams questioned why the trust board asked LifeNet to raise its rates, citing minutes from the board’s September meeting. Both Pennington and Williams said the move was to convince more residents to purchase the Western Payne County Ambulance Trust Authority’s membership plan.

“(The ambulance authority) has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens, and it is reprehensible that the chairman would ask the low bidder to raise their rates,” said Williams.

The membership plan costs $5 a month per household and pays the deductible and copay costs of an ambulance ride for those with insurance. It pays 40 percent of the ambulance ride cost for those who don’t have insurance. The cost of an average ambulance ride is approximately $1,000.

Moeller said that the board did ask LifeNet to raise its rates to the market average for the area to reduce the subsidy LifeNet would have to receive. He said that while it might encourage more participation, that wasn’t the board’s reasoning.

“That wasn’t the sole purpose of (the price change),” Moeller said.

The subsidy is an estimated amount needed to be collected from memberships for LifeNet to break even. Additionally, both Stillwater Medical Center and Oklahoma State University have pledged to contribute $100,000 to help meet that goal.

The subsidy for the first year of the contract is $1 million. The highest estimated subsidy needed comes in year three of the contract at $1,253,336.

Moeller said that to reach that amount, he expects that LifeNet will need a 60 percent to 80 percent participation rate in the service area.