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Emergency ambulance coverage rates expected to rise in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City officials say the popular program's reserves are depleted.
by William Crum Published: April 24, 2013

Rates must rise to cover the cost of a popular program that protects residents from big bills for emergency ambulance service, the Oklahoma City Council was told Tuesday.

About 180,000 households — 82 percent of those eligible — pay $3.65 per month to be part of TotalCare in Oklahoma City.

Thousands more in suburban communities also take part.

The monthly charge is deducted from utility bills.

Anyone covered by the program receives emergency ambulance service — for instance, if they've been hurt in an accident — for free.

Doug Dowler, Oklahoma City's budget director, told the city council that the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) anticipates the charge for an emergency ambulance ride will increase from $1,300 to $1,800 on July 1, 2014.

City staff estimates the monthly TotalCare fee will have to go up 26 percent, to $4.60, on Oct. 1 to cover the increased costs.

Other options include phasing in higher rates over three years.

Dowler said TotalCare is expected to bring in about $6.7 million in the fiscal year ending June 30.

Most participants renew their memberships during the annual enrollment period in September, he said.

EMSA estimates it makes about 54,000 emergency ambulance runs each year in Oklahoma City.

For patients without insurance, TotalCare pays their bill.

For those with insurance, TotalCare pays their out-of-pocket share.

EMSA seeks full payment from those without insurance or TotalCare, Dowler said.

by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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