BAY COUNTY, Fla. - Four years ago, Bay County Commission voted to take over ambulance services from Bay Medical Sacred Heart. They were hoping that service would either break even or possibly turn a profit. Though that may have been true at first, that did not happen in the 2016 fiscal year.
Bay County Manager, Bob Majka, explains why they are losing money.
"Over 60 percent of our customer base is either on Medicare or Medicaid, and we only receive approximately 33 percent of our costs back when we will bill for those. we're going to have to look at our rate base and what we charge. We currently charge some of the highest rates in the Panhandle for EMS," he said.
Officials told us that the ambulance service lost nearly one million dollars last year. This year, they have lost $690,000 so far. Officials say this is due to an increase in call volumes and Medicare or Medicaid patients versus private payers. They are also having to maintain an older ambulance feet, which is driving up costs.
Even though the service is losing money, County officials, including Commissioner Guy Tunnell, believe the County should not go back to running through a private company or a hospital.
"You get to a point in public safety where you can't look at it as simply as dollars and cents. I mean we're talking about saving peoples' lives here and I think that's first and foremost for me and always has been," he said.
County officials said they are working to ensure that the costs of the ambulance service are not passed on to Bay County's taxpayers. First, they have continued to roll back millage rates the amount property owners pay in taxes. Majka explained that they should be able to do this within their budget.
"We think the the way to go is to reduce those rates. We believe we can do that within our means, within the revenue that's coming to the county already. We're going to be able to reduce taxes in this next upcoming budget, and we think we can also deal with some of these issues within the EMS system," he said.
The money has to come from somewhere, but for now County officials plan to cover the losses with a subsidy out of the general fund.
Staff at the First Presbyterian Church in Chipley started…
Residents in Panama City kicked off Black Friday searching for…
The Panama City Beach Tourist Development Council presents "Beach…