SEOEMS offers low bid for EMS service

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Lawrence County may be able to spend $294,000 less on its emergency medical service for 2006, but whether the county will save any money in the long run remains to be seen.

Bids for the county's emergency medical services were due Monday morning and three EMS providers placed their offers. Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services (SEOEMS), the current provider, had the lowest bid, at $1,173,750.

Athens' American Medical Response bid $1,450,000 and Urgent Care Transport of Portsmouth was the highest at $1,938,676. Around a half-dozen companies had originally expressed an interest in the contract.

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SEOEMS' bid is $294,000 less than its contract for 2005, which cost the county $1,467,000. Commissioner Doug Malone, who first moved that the service be put out to bid, said he was pleased

with the result.

&#8220This bid process holds a company in check,” Malone said. &#8220I think that's proven now that they've come back, I haven't looked at the figures totally, but I'd said their bid is back where it was around 1999 or 2000, so I think we've done really well.”

However, the net savings, if any, are unclear due to SEOEMS' annual refunds to the county that would likely be reduced under the revised contract bid.

&#8220We subsidize SEOEMS, and what has happened is that they guess at their budget, and then money coming in from third party payers has been a lot higher than they anticipated,” said county commissioner Jason Stephens.

&#8220So we would say their budget was $1.4 million and they'd bring in $300,000 or so more than they anticipated. Then we'd get this big chunk of money back.”

For 2004, that &#8220chunk of money” was $384,000, bringing the county's cost for the year to $1.034 million. For 2003, the county received $322,658 back from $1,338,641, bringing the costs to $1.015 million.

That additional money that is usually refunded has been factored into SEOEMS' bid for 2006, which means that the refund for 2006, if it existed at all, would probably not be as hefty, said Eric Kuhn, SEOEMS executive director.

&#8220We feel like there won't be a whole lot of money to give back at the end of the contract because we've done those adjustments,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn said he also lowered the bid by attempting to make his organization more efficient.

&#8220We've streamlined our headquarters operation, we've made some recommended changes, that will hopefully reduce our administrative costs by about 5 percent for next year,” Kuhn said.

Stephens, who voted against putting the services out to bid, said that he believed the lower cost could have been reached without the turmoil created by the bidding process.

&#8220It's literally six one way and a half-dozen the other way,” Stephens said. &#8220I don't look at it as saving. We're saving money on the front end instead of getting money back on the back end.

&#8220When you look at the numbers on it, for the price that SEOEMS provides the service, they are an efficient government organization, the price of the bid came down $300,000, but the amount that county will get back will come down also, ” Stephens said.

Malone said he wasn't ruling the other two providers out, but acknowledged that there was a large gap between SEOEMS' offer and the bids of the other companies. He said that the other option on the table is not contracting out the service at all.

&#8220The only thing I'm looking at now is our county doing it ourselves, and would that be feasible,” Malone said. &#8220Would we still save $200,000 or $300,000 doing it that way? I don't know. But I think SEOEMS has done an admirable job on their bid.”

The commissioners will review all options and announce the new provider on Nov. 17.