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Arlington ambulance rate rises 15%. Officials blame inflation, rising operation costs

A red American Medical Response ambulance with a blue asterisk logo sits in a parking lot. The back of the ambulance is striped red and yellow. The side and back of the car says "Arlington EMS System."
Kailey Broussard
/
KERA
American Medical Response provides fee-based EMS services in Arlington.

The rate for ambulance services in Arlington rose by 15% in late June – an increase EMS service provider American Medical Response attributes to inflation and rising operational costs.

Under a contract amendment approved by Arlington City Council, the average cost of an ambulance ride cannot exceed 3% over $1,896.65. The rate increase is a roughly $354 jump from the company’s previous contract year with the city.

The contract allows AMR to request a 5% annual rate increase; any increase over that rate requires council approval. The request is the company's third during the course of the contract first approved in 2018.

Assistant Fire Chief Brent Shanklin said the increase mirrors that of other cities as EMS providers experience the effects of inflation, as well as rising personnel and equipment costs.

“Certainly with our region and comparative cities, it’s just taking more money and benefits to retain paramedics necessary to do the job, so everybody’s seeing similar cost increases,” Shanklin said in a phone interview.

Will Hendon, Global Medical Response North Texas regional director, said the rate increase also helps the company remain competitive in recruitment and retention of employees.

“If you reach out to other agencies, they would tell you the same, that the cost of operating EMS agencies has gone up exponentially,” he said. “A lot of that is around the competitive nature of the types of employees that we get.”

American Medical Response’s operating costs have risen by 52% since 2019, according to a presentation to city council members. Salaries and benefits each increased by 62% and vehicle operating costs increased by 77%.

Butch Oberhoff, president of the Texas EMS Alliance, said in an email the cost for equipment like ambulances, cardiac monitors and stretchers have doubled over the last decade.

“Our communities, no matter where we are in Texas, expect competent, professional medics but our industry struggles with workforce shortages, no matter what corner of Texas you look – or what corner of the United States, for that matter,” he wrote.

American Medical Response has operated in the city since 2001 and manages over 40,000 calls a year, according to the company’s website. Arlington’s contract with AMR provides a fee-based service, which means residents only pay for services as needed – not through taxpayer subsidies.

Both the city and AMR plan to advertise programs that help families with ambulance costs.

The company offers the Arlington EMS Ready Care Membership program, which covers medically necessary transports – and a 50% discount for not medically necessary trips – for household members starting at $60 per year with primary and secondary insurance. The annual fee is $67.50 with only primary insurance, and $400 per year with no insurance.

Only 265 households in town have signed up for the program, Hendon said Tuesday.

Shanklin said the city will attach Ready Care applications to residents’ August water bill and advertise the program online.

“We should reach everybody with either a paper or a digital announcement of the program,” Shanklin said.

The company also offers a Compassionate Care Program that assists patients with ambulance expenses based on financial hardship.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at kbroussard@kera.org. You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for KERA News and The Arlington Report. Broussard has covered Arlington since 2020 and began at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before joining the station in 2021.