Friday, March 11, 2011

Ambulance Chasing . . .

There has been a barrage of advertising by Kunkel Ambulance on TV, Radio, Print and Internet,  pointing to  "Alarming Facts about Utica's Ambulance Service,"  to convince Utica leaders to discontinue the service. Among Kunkel's bullet points . . .
  • This taxpayer-supported service has been conducted without a Certificate of Need, which is required by law ...
  • At a time when healthcare costs are astronomical, the City is often charging healthcare plans more than double what Kunkel Ambulance charges
  • Overtime costs for the fire department have skyrocketed to over a million dollars from $296,619 before the start of the City-run ambulance service. The City cites the ambulance service as a revenue generator without factoring in these costs!
  • The City of Utica says the ambulance service brings in revenue. But at what COST? Revenue is not profit. Revenue means nothing without factoring in the true costs of running the program.
  • Expenses of labor and overtime are not listed as costs. There is no business that does not consider labor a cost.
  • Operating expenses are totally excluded or understated on their budget sheets. Such as the cost of repairs for a whole year, listed at only $2,000.00!
  • The costs for all of the legal battles the City initiated against the State of New York are not included. . . . 
Are Kunkel's allegations biased? Of course! Kunkel is an interested party and not a news organization. They are trying to knock off their competition.

But are the allegations true? If so, what does it mean for Utica's taxpayers?  What does it mean for the cost of health-insurance in this area?  Utica taxes are already too high and drive businesses away. Utica area health insurance rates are already significantly higher than other areas ... which increases the cost of doing business here for those companies providing health insurance for their employees.

No one is saying that the services provided by Utica firefighters and EMTs are not professional or of other than highest quality.  But the public need for them has already been determined to be lacking, and a number of complaints have been made of sky-high charges.

Kunkel's arguments make sense. The true costs have yet to be calculated. If this service increases taxpayers' costs  . . . and/or increases area residents' health insurance costs, then the increased value city residents and insurance purchasers receive in return must be clearly identified if the service is to be kept in existence. If there is no added value for the added cost, then end the service.
Utica going into the Ambulance business sounds like New Hartford going into the private security business: great ways for certain employees to puff up their overtime and, ultimately, their pensions, while placing all the risks on the taxpayer.

The Utica Master Plan calls for studies to extend this and other services to neighboring municipalities.  Again, at what costs?  It appears that some people at City Hall are empire building on the backs of the taxpayers.

The City is supposedly in this venture to make money. But money for whom?


Brother Jesse said...

Is there a chance that the city's ambulance service may be like my town's service? Certified personnel are the same and equipment is similar to a private service, but the town does not send accounts to collection if insurance won't cover the ride and a hardship is indicated.

Anonymous said...

The most telling neglect in the issue is the failure of the OD to investigate, analyze and print all of the numbers of cost/benefit to the city which means the taxpayer. At no time that I'm aware of have the answers of whether or not the city operation results in net revenue presented or publisized by the OD which is supposed to provide that type of reporting. How can the public than moniter the decisions of their officials?

Anonymous said...

1. @strikeslip: The organization that determines whether a "need" exists is comprised of privately-owned and privately-operated ambulance services... it's no surprise they found no "need."

2. @anonymous2: How can the public monitor the decisions of their officials?


Anonymous said...

3.Media in performing it's watchdog role generates information that prompts more citizen awareness, parcipitation and organization.