On a 6–2 vote Wednesday night, Tulsa city councilors rejected EMSA's request to increase the rate for an ambulance ride.
The emergency medical provider said it needs to hike the cost for an ambulance ride by $400, from $1,300 to $1,700, mostly to cover a projected $2.4 million in legal bills as it fights a federal lawsuit. EMSA officials said that was the best option, as it maintains equipment replacement schedules and response times. City Councilor and EMSA trustee Phil Lakin agreed and was one of the two votes in favor of the increase.
"Every single one of us would rather spend $2 million or $1.5 million or $2.5 million or whatever the number is, on services to citizens," Lakin said.
Councilor David Patrick was the other vote in favor of the request. Councilor Jeannie Cue was absent. The increase would have affected about 20 percent of Tulsans not enrolled in EMSAcare, which covers out-of-pocket costs for service.
Some councilors asked what would happen if the city just stopped funding EMSA. CFO Kent Torrence said that would legally amount to withdrawing from the trust governing EMSA, and the agency could take all its assets to Oklahoma City.
"You have to buy 46 ambulances. You have to buy all the equipment. You have to buy all the infrastructure. You have to start from square one. It's about $25 million," Torrence said.
EMSA Medical Director Dr. Jeffrey Goodloe said he hopes the matters don’t come into anyone’s mind if they’re having a heart attack or other medical emergency.
"My greatest fear as a physician is that the lack of administrative confidence may prevent a citizen that needs our medical care from accessing that medical care," Goodloe said.
EMSA representatives told city councilors the only other option they could come up with that wouldn’t affect patient care would be financing ambulance and equipment purchases to spread the cost out over a longer period of time, but that would mean a $550 rate increase request next year.