The first year of operation for the city-run ambulance service in Saratoga Springs saw an additional 1,000 emergency medical calls come through the city Fire Department, bringing in more than a half-million dollars in net revenue.
The ambulance is being run by the Fire Department, most of whose members are trained as emergency medical technicians.
“It’s been a great success,” said city Public Safety Commissioner Chris Matthiesen.
The Fire Department began providing the city’s ambulance service in February 2012, after the previous, private provider, Saratoga Emergency Medical Services, went out of business because of financial problems.
In a report prepared by Fire Chief Robert Williams and released last week, the city said the ambulance responded to 3,223 calls through Jan. 31, an average of just less than nine calls per day. Most were for patients who were transported to Saratoga Hospital.
The Fire Department was already responding to emergency medical calls before it took over the ambulance service, averaging just more than 2,200 responses per year. Empire Ambulance, a private service based at Saratoga Hospital, is providing backup when both city ambulances are in use, but the city was able to handle 87.5 percent of calls.
Initial projections a year ago were that the ambulance service would bring the city about $1 million in new revenue per year, from federal government and private insurance reimbursements. The reality is looking like slightly less money, since the city isn’t collecting payments from everyone who calls an ambulance. Also, some insurance bills have yet to be paid, though the city expects the money eventually.
The billing is handled by a third party, MultiMed Billing Service of Baldwinsville.
Matthiesen said the city had to get the service started quickly when SEMS stopped operating, and it initially wasn’t registered with Medicaid and Medicare, so it wasn’t able to bill those government programs.
“For a period of time, we weren’t being reimbursed,” he said Thursday.
Gross revenue has been about $667,000. After expenses, actual net revenue so far has been $511,513, according to the report — but as more insurance reimbursements come in, there’s the potential for revenue of nearly $875,000, based on the services provided to date.
The city’s costs to date are estimated at about $170,000, including the cost of buying a used ambulance and equipping it with life-support equipment. There was also about $62,000 in additional firefighter overtime paid, because the minimum staffing level was increased from nine to 10 firefighters per shift.
The 2013 city budget has added two firefighters to the department, at an estimated cost of $55,000 per year each, in part because of the ambulance service.
Projecting forward through 2016, the report is estimating costs will rise to $324,000 per year, including the costs of the additional firefighters and replacement, by then, of one of the city’s two ambulances.
The projections are that the city will continue billing about $1 million a year in services and collect as much as three-quarters of that amount through government or insurance reimbursements.
“We anticipate that as this goes on, revenues will be up close to our projections,” Matthiesen said.
The City Council is planning to do an evaluation of the ambulance service this summer, after the city-run operation has been up and running for 18 months.