Scott County is moving forward with a plan to take Medic EMS under its wing and make it a county-run department. Meanwhile, it looks like it can be done during the first year without having a negative impact on the county’s general property tax levy. The Scott County Board of Supervisors voted last month to […]
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Scott County is moving forward with a plan to take Medic EMS under its wing and make it a county-run department. Meanwhile, it looks like it can be done during the first year without having a negative impact on the county’s general property tax levy. The Scott County Board of Supervisors voted last month to retain Public Consulting Group (PCG) to conduct a deeper analysis of the plan. The $33,500 contract entails two phases with the first involving an operational analysis of such factors as call volume, response times, dispatching and an organizational structure. The second phase would include staffing needs and a more detailed financial analysis, including revenue projections. The first phase is expected to be finished in March, with the second part of the study continuing into the summer months. This is the latest step the county has taken toward bringing Medic under its umbrella. For several years, there have been questions about Medic’s long-term sustainability. Local officials have said its expenses outpace revenues, and that its organizational structure was preventing it from tapping into certain revenue streams and cost controls. Making Medic a county department, however, might open up those possibilities. Currently, Medic is a non-profit governed by a board that includes representatives from the public sector and the area’s two largest hospital systems. Last fall, Medic was predicting a $1.5 million deficit for its 2023 fiscal year, raising questions about what impact making it a Scott County department might have on the county’s finances. However, Medic’s financial picture has improved since then. Through the first five months of this fiscal year, Medic lost $247,000 – much less than the $650,000 it budgeted for at that point, Linda Frederiksen, Medic’s executive director, told the QCBJ in mid-January. Meanwhile, David Farmer, the county’s top budget officer, said he doesn’t believe making Medic a county department would have a negative financial impact on the county’s general fund property tax levy during the first year. “The general fund levy is able to sustain the initial year of Medic without a tax levy impact,” he said in a recent interview with the QCBJ. In addition to Medic’s improving financial picture, the county already sets aside $200,000 a year – to support Medic if needed – in its annual operating budget of about $85 million. There still are a number of separate issues that need to be resolved before the county could move forward. In addition to hiring the Boston-based PCG, county officials say they may need additional expertise to deal with legal issues, as well as a recruitment agency to hire top staff. The county also hasn’t decided when it might close the deal and begin operations. But Mr. Farmer said officials have examined two possible dates: July 1 of this year and Jan. 1, 2024. There may be greater clarity when the first phase of the consultant’s study is done. “I would look for some feedback in March,” Mr. Farmer said. In another development, the City of Davenport has stepped back from the idea of providing its own ambulance service. The city has been studying the idea for several months, and the prospect of having two providers in the county prompted a division between Davenport and the county and the City of Bettendorf. The county and Bettendorf were urging Davenport to support the single countywide model that has been in place for four decades. Scott County Administrator Mahesh Sharma told supervisors last month Davenport had agreed to step back and support the countywide model. In an interview recently, Davenport Mayor Mike Matson confirmed that and called the city’s move “a pause.” The idea of making Medic a county department comes after years of discussions. In 2019, officials had considered forming an intergovernmental agency to operate the service and that it would open the door to new revenue sources, including federal Ground Emergency Medical Transportation funding. Known as GEMT, the voluntary program provides supplemental payments to cover the difference between the costs of providing emergency medical transportation and Medicaid’s base payment and other sources of reimbursement. Medicaid reimbursement rates typically do not match costs. However, local officials say that last year, the State of Iowa put the brakes on GEMT funding for an intergovernmental entity, asking that a single local government be responsible for moving forward with the plan. The state, which administers the Medicaid program along with the federal government, was worried an ambulance service operated by more than one government might not get federal approval, local officials said.