Union urges city leaders to use revenue from fare increase to boost EMS pay

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CLEVELAND — In an effort to bring the city’s EMS rates in line with those of other peer cities, Cleveland officials recently increased what they charge insurers to transport a patient, marking the first time in nearly two decades that they did it. The vast majority of additional revenue will come from reimbursements from private insurance companies and officials from CARE Local 1975, the EMS union, are imploring city officials to use the revenue to invest in the division’s workforce. .

The Cleveland City Council Safety Committee held a two-hour hearing on Wednesday on the current state of the EMS division as well as the city’s recent decision to raise EMS rates for the first time in nearly two decades. The rate increases are more than double the previous rates, from $750 to $1,300, depending on the level of care required.

After transporting a patient, the city will seek reimbursement from the patient’s insurer, whether it is Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance. No less than 94% of reimbursements collected by the city of Cleveland come from Medicare and Medicaid. City Comptroller Jim Gentile told council members that the vast majority of the $1.2 million in additional revenue expected from this rate increase will be paid for by private insurance companies.

“$1.1 million of the $1.2 million actually comes from private insurance companies,” Gentile said. “That kind of puts us on a par with other big cities. It’s been 20 years since we increased it, so we know that everything has increased in the last 20 years.

Because Medicare and Medicaid largely place caps on how much they will reimburse, the vast majority of residents who need EMS transportation won’t see any difference, officials said. The amount Cleveland charges insurers also does not cover the division’s full cost per haul, officials said. Although the budget of the EMS Division has increased by approximately $10 million over the past two decades, despite the fact that transportation costs had previously remained unchanged.

“It’s still below the price of what it costs to pick people up,” Gentile said. raised him to.

Ward 17 Councilman Charles Slife, who has largely led efforts to increase EMS fares, stressed that fare increases should not be viewed as a source of revenue.

“It will never be revenue neutral. However, I think the common goal is to make sure we don’t subsidize EMS at the expense of other city services and at the expense of EMS themselves,” Slife said.

Timothy Sommerfelt, secretary of CARE Local 1975, addressed city officials and council members during the public comment period at Wednesday’s hearing. Acknowledging that the union and the city are still in negotiations for a new labor agreement, Sommerfelt urged city leaders to consider investing more in the division’s workforce.

“All the ambulances, the cots, the monitors, they are worthless without the paramedics to run them. That’s why CARE supports these EMS rate increases. Just as we have invested in equipment, we also need our EMS workforce,” Sommerfelt said.

Sommerfelt pointed to some of the pay disparities between EMS and other public safety agencies, in addition to longer training requirements, paramedics can only retire after 33 years of service, compared to 25 years for police. and firefighters. CARE and other EMS professionals are working with heads of state to change that.

These disparities, Sommerfelt said, are a tough sell when trying to recruit new EMTs and paramedics, Sommerfelt said.

“We want you to work seven more years. You will earn less money. You are going to have a higher workload,” Sommerfelt said. “And, oh, if you take your talents to the suburbs, you’re going to earn more starting than what we’re passing. I don’t know how we can sell a young person on this career.

Although the EMS Division has a new group of cadets entering the academy in the coming weeks, the staffing crunch at the division isn’t going away anytime soon. Currently, the division is short of 50 frontline staff. A total of 21 paramedics have quit so far this year.

“To hear today that we’re down 50 is troubling. I’ll be honest. It’s troubling that we’re down 50,” Councilman Mike Polensek (Ward 8) said.

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