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Study on ambulance costs, rates presented to council

Peter Moy of Financial Consulting Solutions Group presented the results of an ambulance cost of service and rate study to the Sunnyside City Council at Monday night's meeting.

The study is a requirement for the ambulance utility under the law and its completion will also allow the city to adjust the rate structure for the utility if necessary.

Sunnyside's ambulance service costs more than the city is taking in through utility rates, with the difference being made up of contributions from the city's general fund. Beginning this year, cities no longer are required to fund ambulance service from their general funds.

The study determined that the maximum rate the city can charge is more than twice what citizens are currently paying.

However, that maximum rate is based on how the city calculates its costs, which is based on residential units, a number that roughly estimates how many people live at a location. The study also recommends some changes to those calculations which would have the effect of lowering the maximum rate.

In order to make these determinations, Financial Consulting Solutions Group had to break down costs for the services of the city's ambulance utility. Because Sunnyside has an integrated fire department, the consultants first had to calculate what percentage of the fire department costs were ambulance related.

After finding out the amount the city spends for the ambulance utility, state law requires breaking the costs out further to determine availability costs, which are based on keeping the ambulance service available to answer a call, and demand costs, which are based on the actual number of calls the ambulance service responds to.

A combination of the availability and demand costs, multiplied by the residential units, determines how much the city is allowed to charge for the ambulance utility.

People who are both on Medicaid and receive in-home care cannot be charged for the utility, which exempts a number of people living in the city.

During the presentation, Councilman Jason Raines requested clarification about the Medicaid numbers. Moy explained that the difficulty in getting numbers for people exempt from the utility cost was due to that number being only a portion of Medicaid patients, and not all Medicaid patients. Outside of nursing homes the numbers are self-reported, and the city had no data.

Interim City Manager Frank Sweet asked for 30 days for city staff and the fire department to go over the information in the report and then bring it back to the council for further review.

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