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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Yakima County ambulance provider AMR cites financial problems for ceasing Grant County operations

By Phil Ferolito Yakima Herald-Republic

Yakima County’s sole 911 ambulance provider — American Medical Response — is ceasing operations in Grant County, citing rising costs and low reimbursements from insurers like Medicaid.

AMR said it needed an additional $350,000 a year to supplement operations, according to news reports.

This concerns Yakima County Commissioner Kyle Curtis.

“For Yakima we need a sustainable contract that will work for Yakima County, mitigate our previous concerns and ensure we can hold the provider accountable,” Curtis said.

Yakima County Commissioners in December selected AMR over local ambulance provider Advanced Life Systems.

The county wanted a dedicated 911 ambulance responder. In the past, there were issues with 911 calls competing with other calls, such as transporting patients from a hospital to another medical or care facility. Fire chiefs in the county suggested moving to one provider because of concerns about response times.

AMR said it doesn’t expect to run into the same financial issues in Yakima County as it did in Grant County.

“The business challenges that existed in Grant County are not present in the Yakima market. Payer mix, the percentage of revenue from private insurance, self-pay patients, and government insurance programs, is different in Yakima, as is overall EMS call volume,” an AMR spokesperson said in a statement.

AMR doesn’t receive financial compensation from Yakima County, but relies on payments from patients and insurers.

AMR is a nationwide ambulance provider affiliated with worldwide Global Medical Response. The company has had issues in other communities, including terminating an ambulance contract in Tacoma and a discrimination lawsuit it settled for $165,000 in Spokane.

Yakima County’s selection of AMR was met with some controversy. Last year commissioners selected AMR over ALS, but nixed the contract after questions arose about the request for proposal process and how AMR received perfect marks from a scoring committee despite its past problems in other communities.

ALS, which is locally based, continues to provide patient transports from one medical facility to another in the county.

The county sent out a new RFP, and again selected AMR in December.

ALS has submitted a protest to the selection process that will be appealed to Yakima County commissioners, Curtis said.

“I would expect us to be discussing this at an upcoming work session in a week,” he said.