TULSA, Okla. — The Tulsa City Council has denied the Emergency Medical Services Authority’s request to raise its rates to help cover its defense in a federal kickbacks lawsuit.
The authority’s board of trustees voted in August to increase their emergency transport from $1,300 to $1,700. The board needed the City Council’s approval for the hike to take effect.
On Wednesday, the council voted against the increased rates. In making their decision, councilors described having distrust in the agency’s management, the Tulsa World reported.
Jan Slater, chairwoman of the authority’s board of trustees, told the council that a rate increase was the final option the board and staff had to address legal costs.
“I never thought I’d have to come ask for this,” Slater said. “I want you to know we have looked at every possibility we can.”
But councilors said there’s no guarantee that more funding would rescue the agency or the city from eventually having to pay more.
A lawsuit filed in January claims that a Texas hospital and ambulance provider entered into a $20 million kickback scheme to obtain and keep a profitable public ambulance services contract awarded by the authority and its director. It claims the “pay to play” scheme violates anti-kickback statutes and the False Claims Act.
Authority officials have continued to stand by its president, Stephen Williamson, and its own actions.
The denied request could force authority officials to go with a secondary plan to defer costs on planned capital expenses or negotiating slower response times.
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com