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Study: Ohio County Reimbursed for Less than Half of Medic Services

DELAWARE, Ohio -- The city of Delaware is being reimbursed by the county less than half of what it really costs to provide medic services to the city's residents, says a study commissioned by the city.

The $20,000 study by the accounting firm Holbrook and Manter, which the city hired in 2010 after negotiations with the county on a new EMS contract stalled, provides actual numbers about what it costs to provide the service, City Manager Tom Homan said.

"It provides us with better information to respond (to the county) and have a more fact-based, rational discussion as to what's an appropriate reimbursement rate," he said.

Homan would not identify a figure that the city would like to receive per run, saying only that it should be more than the $186 for transport medic runs and $93 for nontransport runs that it currently receives under a contract that expired in 2008.

In 2010, when there were nearly 5,300 medic runs, each cost the city between $412 and $562, the study found.

Since 1971, when the county began its EMS service funded by a 0.5 percent sales tax, the city of Delaware and Liberty Township have received reimbursements from that tax for providing medic runs within their own jurisdictions. Those departments predate the countywide service and receive the same reimbursement per run from the county.

Last year, Genoa Township, which passed a property-tax levy in 2010 for increased fire service, pushed for its own reimbursement but was rebuffed by the county.

In 2010, Delaware, with a $7 million fire department budget, received more than $546,000 for medic runs; Liberty Township got $232,000 to add to its more than $6 million budget.

The issue of what's an appropriate rate has been going on since the 1970s, Homan said. But as the county has grown, the bigger issue has become whether the model in place now is the right one.

"It's been in place for 40 years, and it's never really undergone any change," said Liberty Township Administrator Dave Anderson. "It might be the most arcane form of government around."

The county spent an average of $1,437 per run, with a wide difference from station to station. The average run out of Sunbury cost $822 on the low end, while Radnor Township cost the most, $2,468.

Those higher costs are understandable, because Delaware medics are also firefighters; county medics only perform EMS services, Homan said.

County Administrator Tim Hansley said there was no real dispute over the numbers the study found.

"We never tried to pay them a rate that matched the actual cost of service," he said. "We'll be negotiating."

Homan said he'd like to see the county municipalities apply for a state grant allowing them to study the EMS model. It's something that was floated last year but lacked the financial support of most of the fire chiefs. County officials would have paid half of the $80,000 to $100,000 cost.

"The governor and the legislature, they're telling communities that the old way of doing business may still work, but there may be a better way, a more-efficient way of doing it," Homan said.

Hansley said the county would participate only if a majority of the chiefs also support it. He said county officials aren't married to the current system, which includes sharing space and splitting runs with existing fire departments.

"We're not saying it's perfect," he said. "It's providing countywide service based on geography."

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