Health care in the United States is an ever-evolving issue, where citizens are being taxed more and the government is providing less help. Another area we are seeing this trend is in rising ambulance fees. More and more, cities across the U.S. are increasing their ambulance fees because the help emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics used to receive from the government no longer exists.
To save lives and their bottom line, paramedics are increasing their fees simply to stay afloat.
Steve Weigand, director of servicing for the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, said the number of uninsured people receiving ambulance transport has swelled during the past 18 to 24 months. And it’s because of these uninsured people that we are all seeing an increase in ambulance fees.
“Ambulance providers nationwide are coping with rising costs, decreased support from local government, low Medicare reimbursement rates and a jump in the number of uninsured Americans," said Stephen Williamson, president of the American Ambulance Association.
In the past, providers could rely on subsidies from local government, but those resources have dwindled during the economic downturn, Williamson said.
For example, a 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office showed “providers were paid a Medicare reimbursement rate 6 percent below cost, and the gap widened to 17 percent in remote areas." Williamson said the disparity has grown since then.
Cities that have already seen the increase include Gig Harbor, Wash., whose tax-funded district raised its ambulance fees on Sept. 1, 2010. Ambulance basic service fee hiked from $375 to $550. The Gig Harbor Medical Division Chief Paul Berlin projected a $1.5 million drop in property tax revenue next year.
Colorado Springs, Colorado's private ambulance company, American Medical Response of Colorado, is set to increase rates by almost 6 percent in late 2010.
Los Angeles, Calif.'s fire department increased its ambulance prices in July, 2010 for the second time in two years. The most recent increase spike was 37 percent, setting the current ambulance fee at $974.