The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 25, 2012

Pymatuning Ambulance Service faces financial challenge

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ANDOVER — An aging population, changes in reimbursement procedures and high unemployment has placed the ambulance service serving southeast Ashtabula County in danger, said Bob Miller, the business manager and treasurer of the Pymatuning Ambulance Service.

The Pymatuning Ambulance Service, a non-profit organization, has asked the townships and villages they service to review options as a major financial crunch has placed the service in jeopardy, said Bob Miller business manager and treasurer for the PAS.

“We contract our services to the townships and villages and they put the levies on the ballot,” Miller said. He said new taxes are not a good option as the area is financially strapped with businesses leaving the area.

“We don’t have a tax base,” Miller said.

He said the ambulance service doesn’t carry a large debt load, but has a cash-flow problem because of changes in the national health care system and a large amount of unemployed people who don’t have health insurance.

Miller said insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid have all reduced the amount of reimbursement and the new carrier that coordinates payment for Medicare and Medicaid has created major billing issues increasing the length of time between service and payment.

“Now it is taking as much as five or six months,” Miller said.

A meeting was held last week with representatives of Andover Village Council and trustees from Williamsfield, Richmond, Andover, Wayne and Cherry Valley in attendance.

Miller asked them to help make decisions on what services to cut from the 20-person operation that presently operates one 24-hour crew and one 16-hour crew to cover the ambulance needs of the communities involved.

Miller said there are more than $500,000 in uncollected bills presently awaiting reimbursement.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” Miller said. He said some townships are considering an advance on next year’s taxes to help alleviate the short-term issue and they are looking into possible donations and grants.

The worst case scenario would be for the service to close. “It could be a danger down the line,” Miller said.

“There are many, many mandates put out there by the state and federal government, but they are never funded (by the state or federal government),” he said.

Miller said employees have already been asked to sacrifice and further cuts will hurt them badly.

Andover Village Council President Myra Brown said the meeting was very interesting and the politicians will be looking into a variety of options.

“It is a big concern. We are all going back to our constituents,” she said.