Okla. ambulance service files $16M lawsuit against AMR

Emergency Medical Services Authority claims American Medical Response has failed to return proceeds beyond the 10% cap set in their contract


This article has been updated to include a statement from Steve Dralle, AMR Region President. Dralle's full statement, received by email to EMS1, is available at the end of the news article. 

William Crum
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City's ambulance service, EMSA, filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking more than $16 million it claims is owed by the contractor that hires its paramedics.

No interruption in ambulance service was expected.

EMSA is a public trust providing emergency medical care in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.

According to a written statement announcing the lawsuit, EMSA has contracted since 2013 with American Medical Response Inc. to staff its ambulances.

Under the contract, AMR agrees to a 10% cap on profits, EMSA's statement said. EMSA contends AMR has failed to return proceeds beyond the cap.

"While we regret having to take legal action against AMR, we must act in the best interest of the Oklahomans we serve, which includes being fiscally responsible with patient and taxpayer dollars," said Wiley Williams, EMSA's board chairman and a deputy city attorney with the city of Oklahoma City.

"EMSA’s No. 1 priority remains to provide the highest quality emergency medical care possible," he said.

EMSA's statement said funds in excess of AMR's profit cap are intended for ambulances and medical equipment, and to keep costs for taxpayers down.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in Tulsa, said an EMSA spokeswoman, Debbie Schramm.

EMSA's formal name is Emergency Medical Services Authority.

It serves about 750,000 residents of Oklahoma City and surrounding communities, including Edmond and Mustang.

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©2020 The Oklahoman

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Statement from Steve Dralle, AMR Region President

“At EMSA’s request, AMR stepped in to take over the Tulsa and Oklahoma City EMS system in 2013. Around that time, federal prosecutors were investigating EMSA and its prior ambulance provider over a controversial profit cap payment to the Authority from its prior ambulance provider. That case settled in 2018 with substantial payments made to the federal government by EMSA and its prior ambulance provider. Only after settling with the federal government did EMSA begin demanding that AMR make similar payments, which had been considered unlawful by the federal government. AMR consistently refrained from making those payments until it could receive assurance from the federal government or a federal judge that it was being asked to do something that was lawful and appropriate. 

AMR has been working in good faith for more than a year to resolve any differences in an appropriate manner while ensuring we were compliant with laws. AMR has offered other solutions where we could reduce future costs so that the EMSA and public could get appropriate, substantial future financial benefits without risk of violating federal law.

Nevertheless, without prior notice to AMR, EMSA sued AMR today after it unilaterally withheld the same $16 million in operating funds over the last 120 days that were due to AMR for providing life-saving services under its contract. With the recent lawsuit, AMR will now either get comfort from a federal judge that the payments are lawful, or the court will let EMSA know that taking $16 million from AMR was wrong.  

Through all of this, AMR has continued to provide service and care to the Tulsa and Oklahoma City communities.”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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