Saugatuck Township Studying Ambulance Service
At last Wednesday’s Saugatuck Township Board meeting, Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan had this to say about the municipalities’ existing ambulance service contract with American Medical Response of West Michigan (AMR): “There has not been competitive bidding on this contract for at least the last 30 years.”
“We need to take a breather and talk about other proposals (that may save taxpayers money and improve service),” Sheridan told the board while also noting the township was on a tight deadline to contract an ambulance service provider by April 1.
The board took notice, postponed a decision and resolved to study AMR’s two bidding competitors: Kalamazoo-based Pride Care and Life EMS of Grand Rapids, which also serve the area.
“Unless AMR offers (in its 5-year proposal) incentives or reductions in price, I seriously question the logic of lengthening a contract that has increased its price significantly without competition over a period 20-plus years,” said Sheridan.
“AMR has not increased its service obligation during this period yet its subsidy has increased 44% since 2007. This is a concern, as AMR’s fees to the customer have also increased by as much as 18% since 2004 with no limits or ceilings in price.”
However, Saugatuck Township Fire District Chief Greg Janik, who was present at the meeting, offered a different approach.
“We have developed a rapport with AMR. They know many of our citizens, they know the area. I am not one to so easily dismiss that loyalty, not that you are, but it’s something you should consider.” said Janik.
The board is calling on those municipalities within its ambulance district, the Fennville Area 911 Ambulance District—consisting of only the southern half of the township along with Ganges, Clyde and Lee townships, part of Manlius Township and the City of Fennville—to do the same and competitively bid the proposed AMR contract.
To that end, the Emergency Service Committee (composed of representatives from each district member) will meet this Thursday at 7 p.m. to address the township’s concern and figure out the future of ambulance service.
The 5-year AMR proposal, which is a renewal of a long-time arrangement between the service district members and AMR, requires a subsidy of $398,008 shouldered by taxpayers, and of which the township would contribute $33,167.
The subsidy is paid in the form of a special assessment district, special millage or general operating levy of real and personal property.
As for the northern half of the township, including the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas, it also has a contract with AMR but it does not pay special assessment taxes for services; it is a non-government subsidized service with ambulance service stationed at Holland Hospital.
According to Sheridan’s cost analysis, AMR represents the highest subsidy of the three proposals and includes a multiplier of 4% or the Medical CPI (consumer price index). Pride Care, Inc., on the other hand, offers a good faith proposal to eliminate government subsidies that would save the township $398,008, the figure charged by AMR.
Pride Care operates entirely from fees charged to its customer applied at the time of service and a typical fee for Advance Life Support of $895 after Medicare coverage is only $80.06, or free depending on the patients health care or auto insurance.
And Life EMS offers a savings of $14,215 over AMR and a flat price of $72,500 per year over three years with annual multipliers or automatic increases, according to Sheridan.
The multiple concerns Sheridan and the board have discussed about AMR’s current proposal includes:
* the lack of a service performance requirements,
* no guarantees of response times for any type of emergency call,
* and a contract that has an automatic multiplier of price, a multiplier of price which, furthermore, noted Sheridan, is not linked to performance.