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The City Council will consider a resolution Tuesday to allow the Sacramento Fire Department to hike the cost of ambulance rides in the city by nearly 22 percent, and more than double the charges for being treated but not transported by firefighters.
The Sacramento Fire Department is a designated 9-1-1 transport agency for emergency medical services, and the service is paid for by fees charged to patients. City staff reported to the City Council Thursday that current fees are well under that of private agencies providing similar service – and not enough to fully recover the cost of providing the service.
The department is proposing a $240 increase for the base rate for all levels of emergency transport it provides, including basic life support and advanced life support, and a $129 increase in the “medically assessed and treated but not transported” rate.
“Treated but not transported” fees occur when the fire department shows up but the patient decides not to be taken to the hospital, or they get transferred to another ambulance provider. This was the case nearly 7,000 times in 2011.
According to a city staff report, direct costs of providing emergency transport service include labor, supplies, equipment and vehicles, while indirect costs include dispatch services, training and other support services. Revenue generated from the fee increases will offset – but not fully cover – the costs associated with providing the services, the report states.
The fee increases are reminiscent of a 2010 “crash tax” proposal by the fire department to charge non-resident drivers for emergency responses to accidents in which they were at fault. The crash tax proposal was rejected by the City Council in March 2011.
Unlike the crash tax proposal which focused on charging non-residents, the current fee increases would apply to anyone receiving the emergency medical services.
Since the program was implemented, rates have increased six times – but the current fees in Sacramento are still 22 percent lower than comparable services by private providers, according to the staff report.
Here is the full staff report to the City Council on the proposed EMS transport rate increases: