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Jasper County’s leadership is contending with what local providers say is a nation-wide problem with rural EMS service funding.

RENSSELAER — The Jasper County Commissioners’ attempt at a re-bid for next year’s ambulance contract ended Monday with the same disappointing results.

Phoenix Paramedic Solutions offered the very same amount it had offered previously, which was $24,000 per month, leaving the commissioners between a rock and a hard place.

“We didn’t have any choice but to approve that,” said leading commissioner Kendell Culp. “The kicker is, we’re currently paying $15,000 per month. So, they’re going from $15,000 to $24,000, so that’s pretty hard on our county budget.”

Culp said the commissioners had anticipated a five percent increase, as opposed to this bid, which equates to a 65 percent increase.

“Instead of a $9,000 increase per year, we get a $9,000 increase per month,” he said. “So that’s a big, big difference. That’s why we wanted to re-bid it, but we couldn’t attract any other bidders.”

When asked why they were unable to attract other bidders, Culp speculated that it was because the local ambulance service from two years ago, (which was then Prompt Ambulance) had lowered its bid from where it currently was at that time in order to be more competitive. At that time, there were several other bidders in competition with the local service.

“I’m just wondering if the other bidders said ‘You know, well, we’re not going to get into this account, so we just won’t even try,’” he said. “I don’t know if that’s the real reason or not, but I suppose that’s a possibility.”

Representatives from Phoenix and other local EMS services spoke to the commissioners at their previous meeting to give their side of the issue.

Culp said the commissioners are taking them at their word, even though this is tough on the county’s budget plans.

“They’re saying that Medicare reimbursement from the federal government is less and they’re slow to reimburse; there’s certain accounts that they couldn’t collect for,” Culp said. “So, I mean, I understand their reasoning. So, I mean, I have to take them at their word that that’s the reason.”

Culp further reiterated their earlier statements that rural healthcare and EMS services are becoming a lot more expensive and problematic across the country.

“There’s a whole host of reasons why it’s becoming more difficult to provide healthcare and emergency services in rural areas,” he said.

He noted that the commissioners approved Phoenix’s bid pending the Jasper County Council’s approval to do an additional appropriation to fund the extra cost. The commissioners and the council had previously held a joint session where this issue was discussed. The council will have to discuss the cost at its next meeting.

“At our joint session, we informed them about the bid that came in and how much higher it was and that we’re going to re-bid,” Culp said. “So they’re aware that there’s going to be a short-fall here.”