EMSA Costs Could Be Added To Utility Bills

Thursday, March 22nd 2007, 4:08 pm
By: News On 6

The Tulsa City Council is considering a plan to tack the cost of ambulance service onto utility bills. It would be a new way of paying for ambulance service in the city that would make every Tulsa utility customer a member of Total Care. That's EMSA's subscription program that covers out of pocket costs. The News On 6’s Emory Bryan reports people could turn down the monthly fee, but would have to pay full price if they need an ambulance.

"We spread the cost of police and fire over a large population and that's what we're trying to do with this," said Steve Williamson with EMSA.

Williamson says EMSA has to be subsidized because patients don't always pay the full costs. And the idea to bill utility customers is something that's worked in other cities. But here in Oklahoma people will not be billed anything extra if they use the ambulance.

"By offering it to everyone in this fashion, we're able to lower the cost," Williamson said.

The new plan would bill just about everyone for ambulance service, whether they use it or not. The cost of the EMSA Ambulance Service will be $3.64 a month, which adds up to $43.68 a year, and would be collected through city utility bills. All of the 115,000 homes in Tulsa would automatically be billed for the service, but residents could "opt out" and pay nothing, unless they use an ambulance. In Apartment buildings the choice would be up to the landlord, but renters could join individually if they wanted.

"We didn't want people to feel like it was a tax being put on them, by opting out they can choose to take the chance and use the service and pay the rate," said Williamson.

EMSA needs about $2 million a year subsidy right now, but the new plan has the potential to raise twice that. If it's too much they could drop the rate later, but they also have no idea of how many people will opt out of the service.

The Tulsa City Council could vote on the issue next week.

Related Stories:

8/23/2005 EMSA Funding Concerns Raised

10/9/2006 EMSA Contract Decision Due

10/12/2006 EMSA Contract Up For Renewal

1/11/2007 City Of Tulsa To Keep Partnership With EMSA

3/21/07 Price Tag For Ambulance Care