Is Philadelphia losing money on ambulance service?

Philadelphia’s City Controller claims millions are bering left on the table that could help pay for paramedic and ambulance services in the city. 

City Controller Alan Butkovitz says private insurance companies are paying Philadelphia far too little for ambulance services because those rates are tied to what Medicare pays.

 “The city’s agreement with Independence Blue Cross stipulates that the reimbursement rate for ambulance service for patients covered by Independence Blue Cross is to be equivalent to the current Medicare rate in place a the time the service is rendered,” said Butkovitz.

Butkovitz says the city charges about $1,000 to send out an ambulance and reimbursements are between $120 and $200.  On top of that, he says Philadelphia does a bad job of collecting what it is owed.  

“Currently the city is collecting only 42 percent of what it bills.  This rate has remained virtually unchanged since our initial report four years ago.  Of the $82.5 million net amount billable in fiscal year 2011, only $35 million was collected,” he said.

The Nutter administration says it has chosen a new vendor to collect EMS bills and expects things to improve.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.