The city funding, approved at a council meeting Tuesday, comes at the request of the nonprofit ambulance service and is meant to help offset dwindling revenue, Oxford Councilwoman Charlotte Hubbard said by phone Wednesday. Cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements have taken a bite out of the city’s sole ambulance service, Hubbard said.
Attempts Wednesday to reach Oxford Mayor Leon Smith and EMS director Randy Third for comment were unsuccessful.
Hubbard said she did not know just how much those cuts have affected the company, but said the uninsured who use the ambulance service can also put a burden on the agency.
“We only got a 0.08 percent increase for Medicare this year,” said Anniston EMS President Johnny Warren. “And the Medicaid is what it is in Alabama. It always pays lower than Medicare … it’s basically whatever the state wants to pay you.”
As a result of meager increases in those federal programs, Warren said ambulance service revenues have taken a hit. The uninsured also cost his company money, Warren said, but medical service providers are legally required to respond to emergency calls, no matter a person’s ability to pay.
As a for-profit business, Anniston EMS cannot receive funding from the city of Anniston, but at least one other local nonprofit ambulance service does receive such funding. The city of Piedmont pays the nonprofit Piedmont Rescue Squad $75,000 each year for fuel and equipment purchases.
In 2009, the most recent year for which tax documents were immediately available, Oxford EMS received $879,124 in service fee payments, $17,000 in grants and contributions and another $35,000 in investments and other income for a total revenue of $932,240. The company spent $1.1 million in 2009, with $776,113 of those funds going to payroll costs.
In September 2011, Third told The Star that Oxford EMS was receiving about 600 to 700 calls per month for service. The company operated three ambulances at that time, and due to overstaffing, three employees had been cut from the payroll, bringing the total number of full-time employees to 19.
The agency responds to calls in Oxford, Munford, Eastaboga and the area between the Cleburne County line and Anniston city limits.
Each year, when the Oxford council prepares the city’s budget, they’ll look at that annual allocation to Oxford EMS, Hubbard said, to see if “we can do more.”
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.