City increases ambulance fees

City Editor and City Editor

Students and community members in need of an ambulance may soon face a higher cost for services.

In order to alleviate costs on the fire division, city council voted to raise the rates of ambulance fees.

City council approved the proposed measure Monday night, which increases service charges anywhere from an additional $50 to $200. The increase will go into effect Dec. 1.

Basic Life Support calls will rise from $300 to $500. Advanced Life Support 1 calls will rise from $400 to $550, and Advanced Life Support 2 calls will rise from $550 to $600, according to the legislation. A $50 non-transport fee will also be created for when EMTs treat patients without having to transport them to the hospital.

A Basic Life Support call includes basic emergency services provided by the EMTs, such as taking vital signs and bandaging, said Fire Chief Stephen Meredith. Advanced Life Support 1 includes an escalation of BLS services with the start of IV treatment, minor medication and incubation while Advanced Life Support 2 includes heart monitoring and defibrillation, Meredith said.

Most of the calls run by the fire division are BLS and ALS 1 runs, he said.

“A lot of them are alcohol-related runs and assaults, which are sometimes a result of alcohol,” Meredith said.

These fees won’t apply to everyone; people who use the service will be the ones who pay for it, said Brian Bushong, city finance director.

As long as people using the service are insured, they may not have to pay the full cost for an ambulance ride.

“It’s just a small piece,” Bushong said about the increase.

Depending on a person’s insurance, most of the imposed costs should be covered by his or her policy, said Lori Tretter, public information officer for the Bowling Green Fire Division.

Students enrolled in the Student Insurance Program through United Healthcare Student Resources are responsible for paying a $175 deductible for the service, not including the final medical bill, said a representative for United Healthcare Student Resources.

Even if a student or community member has fewer insurance benefits, Tretter and Meredith don’t think the rates will discourage people from calling.

“If they need it, they need it,” Meredith said.

The city also has a payment plan that can lower the cost of the service or incur payments throughout time, Tretter said.

“It’s a sliding scale that is based on income: if you make ‘x,’ you pay ‘x,’” she said.

In 2011, the fire division made 2,903 ambulance runs, 2,280 of which were Rescue and EMS runs, according to the 2011 Annual Mayor’s Report.

Each ambulance run in 2011 cost the division $1,858 per run, adding up to a total of $5,394,035, Bushong said. This cost includes the cost of salaries, gas, supplies and maintenance to the ambulance.

The estimated revenue from ambulance fees in 2011 was $374,408, while the estimated revenue for 2012 is $395,000, he said.

This method is just one way to help balance the fire division’s budget, which is connected to the general fund, Tretter said.

Despite the raised rate, the fire division still has cut back on two staff members by not refilling vacancies left from retirees, she said.

While the city is not looking to alter anything else with the fire division, Tretter said the city continues to look at different strategies to balance the budget elsewhere.

Comparing the costs:

Current rates

Basic Life Support ambulance calls inside the city: $300

Advanced Life Support ambulance calls inside the city: $400

Advanced Life Support two ambulance calls inside the city: $550

Loaded mileage rates within city limits: no charge

Loaded mileage rate outside city limits: $1.50

Non-transport fee: no charge

New Rates effective Dec. 1

Basic Life Support ambulance calls inside the city: $500

Advanced Life Support ambulance calls inside the city: $550

Advanced Life Support 2 ambulance calls inside the city: $600

Loaded mileage rates within city limits: $7

Loaded mileage rate outside city limits: $10

Non-transport fee: $50