York City EMS service rates double under new contract

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

The York City Council voted to continue utilizing emergency medical response services by White Rose Ambulance at a regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

White Rose Ambulance tweeted out a picture of a couple of their emergency vehicles Friday afternoon, saying they were ready for the storm.

The five-year contract between the city and White Rose Ambulance will provide services retroactive to Jan. 1 and ends Dec. 31, 2022.

The current three-person council voted unanimously to approve the agreement.

The contract includes an escalated compensation structure to White Rose Ambulance. Payments will rise from $175,000 — spread out in monthly payments —  in 2018 to $225,000 in 2022, or an average of about $200,000.

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A little over $1 million will be paid out over the term of the contract.

York City Business Administrator Michael Doweary said White Rose Ambulance was the only company that responded to a request for a proposal to provide emergency response services, and the city had its hands tied.

“It’s tough,” he said, “but they did work with us.”

York City Business Administrator and Bracey campaign surrogate Michael Doweary debates York City mayoral candidate Michael Helfrich in Weinstock Lecture Hall at York College of Pennsylvania in Spring Garden Township, Thursday, April 20, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Doweary noted that while the yearly average is double the $100,000 paid out to White Rose last year, it is much lower than the annual rates in other nearby municipalities, which he said  can “easily” surpass $500,000.

White Rose CEO James Alvin said that even with the increase, the new contract won’t make up the $550,000 the company spends to operate its 911 system.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Then why do you do it?,’” he said.

“It helps attract employees,” he replied.

Emergency services is only part of the company’s business, Alvin added.

The more profitable services White Rose provides comes from nonemergency work, such as facility patient transfers from nursing homes to hospitals and vice-versa.

Emergency work is appealing to many applicants, Alvin said, which motivates the company’s work with the city.

Alvin said the main reason for the increase in emergency service cost comes from low reimbursement rates codified into law by the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Reimbursement rates under the health care exchanges are below cost, Alvin said, offering lower rates for individuals but a lousy deal for EMS companies such as White Rose, which has seen emergency call volume double since the 1990s.

“It’s something we don’t like to do,” Alvin said regarding the rate hike. “But for us to provide the level of service that’s required in the city, we had to raise the rates.”

Council vacancies: At the Tuesday meeting, York City Council President Henry Nixon reminded attendants of the upcoming council vacancy interview sessions taking place on Wednesday, Jan. 24.

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He announced 29 individuals applied to fill two open seats left by York City Mayor Michael Helfrich and a two-year term won but passed over by council member Judy Ritter-Dickson, who chose to accept a four-year term she also won in last year's municipal election.

Nixon, Ritter-Dickson and council member Sandie Walker are in the process of narrowing down candidates and will notify them on whether they'll move forward in the application process in the coming days, Nixon added.

A special session will convene in the middle of the the council's committee meeting to appoint two new members to the City Council.

All deliberations on council vacancies, as well as other city matters, will occur starting at 6 p.m. at the city’s council chambers, 101 S. George St.