ROCK SPRINGS — Sweetwater County’s two main ambulance service providers are in trouble financially, and a solution is proving elusive.
Castle Rock Ambulance Services is operating at a $35,000-a-month loss, and Sweetwater Medics required a subsidy equaling about $1.2 million from Sweetwater County to continue running.
Sweetwater County Commissioner Jeffrey Smith shared those figures at last week’s commissioners meeting while reporting on a gathering between key emergency services players.
“Most people don’t realize they’re losing tons of money,” Smith said. “Something has to be done.”
Smith told the Rocket-Miner that a large part of the problem is the fact that local ambulance providers are reimbursed for an average of only 42% of what they bill.
He compared the process to extortion. The insurance company offers to reimburse the provider at a certain rate, say around 60%, and if a protest is made, insurance responds by saying it will just send the money to the person using the service and the service can try to get reimbursement from them instead, which is difficult and at times nearly impossible.
Another issue is that Sweetwater Medics’ contract with the county prevents it from raising rates unless approved by the commissioners, according to Smith. Current rates are below the national average and haven’t been increased for several years.
Smith attended Monday’s meeting as the commissioners’ liaison with Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County. After five hours of discussion, attendees came away with more questions than answers, even though “a lot of smart people are working on it.”