Council OKs higher ambulance fee

The City-Parish Council on Tuesday approved an increase in ambulance rates by about $300 over the next two years for Acadian Ambulance Service, of Lafayette.

The council voted 8-0 to approve the rates with little discussion.

The increase will raise the base charge for emergency medical transport from the current rate of $673 to $822 this year and $971 in 2014.

The base charge for non-emergency services will rise from the current rate of $376 to $516 this year and $657 next year.

“What we are asking for is one step this year and second step next year to get us to the customary statewide rate,” Acadian Ambulance Service Senior Vice-President of Operations Jerry Romero said.

Romero said Acadian’s rates in Lafayette are the lowest in the state and that the company cannot financially sustain its operations without charging more money.

Acadian Ambulance is a private company, but its rates are regulated by the City-Parish Council as part of an agreement that gives Acadian Ambulance the exclusive rights to provide ambulance services in Lafayette Parish.

The city-parish Emergency Medical Service Advisory Board, which monitors the ambulance contract, had already voted to approve the rate increase.

EMS Advisory Board member Andre Fruge said the board felt the increases were justified, but the board also wanted to “ease the blow” by phasing the higher rates in over two years.

“There is no compelling reason why we should be able to pay less,” Fruge said of the ambulance rates in Lafayette compared with other areas Acadian serves.

Romero said the rate increase is needed in part because Medicare and Medicaid have reduced payments for ambulance services.

Medicare and Medicaid patients make up about 70 percent of Acadian’s customers, he said.

Acadian cannot charge more for transporting those patients than the rate set by the Medicare and Medicaid programs, so the other 30 percent of the customers — many of whom are covered by private insurers or workers’ compensation — are being asked to pay a higher rate to help make up the difference.

In other business, the council members elected Brandon Shelvin as council chairman for 2013, replacing former Chairman Jared Bellard.

“I am humbled and honored by the vote of confidence from my fellow council members,” Shelvin said.

Shelvin won the seat with the support of councilmen Kevin Naquin, Jay Castille, Kenneth Boudreaux, Don Bertrand and Keith Patin. The only other nominee, Councilman William Theriot, received three votes — himself and councilmen Andy Naquin and Bellard.

The council elected Kevin Naquin as vice chairman.

Also on Tuesday, Councilman Don Bertrand announced that an unnamed street between Beadle and Cobblestone roads in Lafayette will be named in honor of Lex D. Trahan, a U.S. Marine from Lafayette who was killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.