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AMR submits only proposal for Youngstown ambulance service

YOUNGSTOWN — American Medical Response, the city’s longtime ambulance service, is the only company to submit a proposal for that work, and it seeks a subsidy to continue handling the job.

“We’ll have to review that and go from there,” said Law Director Jeff Limbian. “We will definitely engage in discussions with AMR.”

Limbian said he expected AMR would be the only company to turn in a proposal despite some members of city council saying in April that with a subsidy other businesses would be interested in coming to Youngstown.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise at all,” Limbian said. “If people listened to the chief (fire Chief Barry Finley) from the outset, we wouldn’t be going through this.”

The administration had recommended city council in April approve a $62,500 monthly payment — from the city’s American Rescue Plan funds — that would have been retroactive to March 1 for a total of $625,000 for this year.

AMR officials have told The Vindicator that without an annual subsidy of at least $750,000, the company could be forced to close its Youngstown operations.

NEGOTIATING

When told that AMR was the only company to submit a proposal, Edward Powers, its northeast regional director of operations, said: “That’s good news. We look forward to negotiating.”

Powers added: “We’ll work together and get it figured out. We’ll come up with a solution for everybody. We’re committed to continuing the service to Youngstown.”

The AMR proposal has “to include some sort of subsidy for us to continue,” Powers said. “We’ll go back to the negotiating table and come to an agreement. We’re not trying to make a fortune. We’re trying to get back to even.”

AMR gave notice on Sept. 14 that it wouldn’t renew its contract, which expires Dec. 31, with the city without financial assistance. The current contract would automatically roll over for another year if AMR didn’t inform the city at least 90 days before the end of the year that it wants a new deal. That contract doesn’t include a subsidy.

AMR officials say a subsidy is needed because an average ambulance run costs about $300 and Medicaid reimburses about $130, so AMR is losing money as 54 percent of its calls in Youngstown are for Medicaid recipients.

The company has asked since 2019 for money from the city to pay for the reimbursement shortfall.

City officials say they don’t want to give AMR a subsidy, but a number of them added that the city is probably not going to have a choice if it wants an ambulance service. Powers has also said AMR would prefer to not need a subsidy, but with the reimbursement issue it doesn’t have any choice.

City Finance Director Kyle Miasek said at a Sept. 22 council safety committee meeting that Youngstown could use a portion of its ARP allocation to pay the AMR subsidy through 2026.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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