The Starke County Council this week balked at a request from the county EMS department to allocate money they’ve received for services rendered to purchase a new ambulance. Business manager Mary Lynn Richie says they’ve collected a significant sum from federal Medicaid reimbursements that were not paid in prior years.
“We’ve already receipted in $97,649.98, with another $13,000 coming in,” she told the council Monday evening. That’s in addition to regular billing, which is $80,000 higher than it was this time a year ago.
The Medicaid reimbursement payments are receipted into the county general fund. Commissioner Kathy Norem says she has no problem in theory with earmarking that money for an ambulance.
“The problem is you have to transfer it out of county general, and I think we got dinged one year. We got our budgets cut because our balance was not sufficient to meet the basic expectations that they have for the budget. So if you take $100,000 or whatever it is out of county general, and you’re already talking about a budget for next year that’s over by 12 percent, you could create a really huge problem for next year when they do the budget,” Norem explained.
It’s been three years since Starke County EMS has purchased an ambulance. Councilman Dave Pearman says in the past they’ve put money in the rainy day fund at the end of the year and used it to purchase an ambulance.
Richie says a new ambulance is desperately needed due to the age of the current trucks and mechanical problems they are experiencing.
The council and commissioners expressed a desire to set up an ambulance replacement schedule, similar to what the sheriff’s office has for patrol cars. New ambulances typically cost between $110 and $134,000, according to Starke County EMS Director Keith Emigh. He also pointed out the Ford rig which recently got a replacement engine has been back in the shop five times since with mechanical problems.
The council tabled action on the purchase and recommended moving toward an ambulance replacement plan once specific cost information is obtained by EMS.