City ambulance fees may rise 45 percent
Glenwood Springs’ ambulance fees would increase an average of 45 percent under a proposal to be considered by Glenwood Springs City Council tonight.Under the proposal, the base rate for providing basic life support for an in-district resident would rise from $382 to $600, compared to an average of $615 for similar area ambulance services, fire chief Mike Piper reports in a city memo. For out-of-district residents, the cost would rise from $421 to $650.For advanced life support, the in-district base rate would rise from $446 to $650, compared to an average of $687. The out-of-district rate would increase from $485 to $700.City ambulance rates last went up in 2000. However, Piper notes that circumstances have changed since then.Due to new interpretations of federal laws, Valley View Hospital has stopped billing patients for disposable supplies used on ambulances and by emergency medical technicians. The fire department now must buy those supplies, but its rates don’t include that cost.Meanwhile, “Medical advances and treatment methods have evolved in recent years to allow highly skilled paramedics and EMTs to treat life-threatening situations in the field, instead of relying on ‘throttle therapy’ to get the patient to the hospital for emergent care,” Piper writes. The cost of advanced life support personnel and services is not being recouped, he says.Piper also notes that insurance companies make payments based on “reasonable” charges for services, determined according to what other providers in an area charge. “When one service does not bill at the level of other services in the area, all services are penalized by the amount the insurance companies will pay. Any amount of the bill not covered by insurance becomes the responsibility of the patient,” he writes.The fee increase would add about $60,000 a year to the city’s general fund.The proposal comes at a time when council has been working to improve the city’s financial condition. It is in the process of approving sharp increases in city planning fees to recoup more of planning costs, and the city also is evaluating its city water and sewer rates.City manager Jeff Hecksel is recommending that council approve the ambulance fee hike. As an alternative, Hecksel wrote to council, it could lessen the impact by increasing fees 25 percent a year over a two-year period.Typical ambulance bills are higher than base rates, when additional costs such as mileage, medications and treatments are included. As an example, under the new fee structure, the fee for responding with advanced life support at Wal-Mart would be $869 for patients in the ambulance district, and $919 for those outside it. Those costs are now $633 and $672, respectively.The cost for responding with basic life support for a patient complaining of neck pain at mile marker 120 of Interstate 70 would be $787.50 in-district and $837.50 out of district. Now, those rates are $607 and 646, respectively.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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