Ambulance Fees Rise To Counter Shortages

Providers are coping with rising costs, decreased government support, low Medicare reimbursement rates and a jump in the number of uninsured.


 
 

GREG LATSHAW, USA TODAY | | Thursday, December 30, 2010


When a Gig Harbor, Wash., Fire & Medic One ambulance speeds toward a hospital, medics are focused on saving lives, not money, Medical Division Chief Paul Berlin says.

But the service, and thousands like it across the USA, can't ignore the bottom line -- not when the fire district projects a $1.5 million drop in property tax revenue next year. So on Sept. 1, the tax-funded district raised its ambulance fees, hiking its basic service from $375 to $550. "We're not here to make a profit," Berlin says. "The only thing we can do is try to improve our service -- or maintain it."

Ambulance providers are coping with rising costs, decreased government support, low Medicare reimbursement rates and a jump in the number of uninsured Americans, says Stephen Williamson, president of the American Ambulance Association.

A 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office showed providers were paid a Medicare reimbursement rate 6% below cost, and the gap widened to 17% in remote areas. Williamson says the disparity has grown since then, and subsidies from local government have dwindled during the economic downturn.

Steve Weigand, director of servicing for the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, says the number of uninsured people receiving ambulance transport has swelled during the past 18 to 24 months. "We're having to raise the rate on everyone else because of the people who don't have insurance," Weigand says.

Among ambulance providers to recently seek increases:

Colorado Springs. American Medical Response of Colorado, a private ambulance company, will increase rates by nearly 6% Saturday, says Douglas Moore, a spokesman for Emergency Medical Services Corp., AMR's parent company.

Los Angeles. The city's fire department increased its ambulance prices by nearly 37% to $974 for basic life support services in July, the second hike in two years, says David Frelinger, a battalion chief in the emergency medical services section.

Even when ambulance providers increase their rates, they often get only a fraction of the full payment, says Cathy Carter, president of Medical Claim-Aid in Denton, Md., which provides billing and collection services for ambulance providers in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.

Medicare and Medicaid pay a fixed amount, based on set rates that are below the cost of ambulance transports, she says. In some cases, private insurers have stopped reimbursing ambulance providers and send payment to the patient, she says, and that person often pockets the money.



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, politics, insurance, finances, budget, billling

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Simulation-Based Assessment Facilitates Learning & Enhances Clinical Judgment

Simulation is an educational tool that can be used to develop and refine clinical skills of the student in a controlled environment before they progress to becoming practicing clinicians.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

REMSA Programs Helps Reduce Hospital Visits

Community paramedic effort goes into service.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

City Official Challenges San Francisco Fire Chief

Ambulance response times among problems noted by city supervisor.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Crash

Victoria ambulance collides with civilian vehicle.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Colorado Medics Ditch Pants for Kilts

“Real men do wear kilts.”
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

CO Leak at Illinois School

Girard incident sends over 130 to hospitals.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Hands On September 2014

Who gets thumbs up this month?
More >


Multimedia Thumb

NYC Sept. 11 Anniversary

View images from the ceremony at Ground Zero.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >