TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Ambulance services struggling to say in business in rural Oklahoma could be helped by legislation that two Democratic state lawmakers have in the works.
Rep. Paul Roan of Tahlequah is proposing a bill that would allow residents to be charged a higher percentage of their property value in order to pay for ambulance service.
That bill would allow for Oklahomans to be charged up to $6 for every $1,000 in property value, but only if voters across the state approve the change. That would be double the current maximum.
A separate bill proposed by Rep. Ben Sherrer of Pryor would remove a so-called “duty to act” requirement that ambulance services must respond to emergency calls in nearby areas even if they don’t pay for ambulance coverage. That state Health Department requirement has been a contributing factor as about 50 ambulance services have gone out of business in Oklahoma since 2000. Others could be on the brink of closure.
“There are at least 12 communities that have completely lost their ambulance services, and some rural areas have never had a service,” said R. Shawn Rogers, emergency medical services director for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Sherrer said he is contemplating proposing a date when the rule would stop being enforced, so rural areas would be able to prepare alternate plans.
Roan said he has also considered proposing legislation that would require counties to set up rural ambulance districts so all areas of Oklahoma are covered.
Residents of Oklahoma City and Tulsa already have fees in place to pay for their ambulance services. Tulsa residents pay $3.64 per month for ambulance service. Oklahoma City will charge $3.65 per month.