Higher ambulance fees may be the latest way to recover costs and minimize Elgin's projected budget deficit, which could be as high as $13 million next year.
City council members will consider a revised fee schedule Wednesday. The fees have not been adjusted since 2001, prompting officials to increase charges to better match costs.
"It has been identified that we are grossly undercharging for our services, especially to nonresidents and those who submit to their insurance company for payment," Fire Chief John Fahy wrote in an Oct. 4 memo to City Manager Sean Stegall.
Ambulance fees differ by treatment from basic life support to two levels of advanced
life support. The resident fees would increase by about 25 percent, and the nonresident fees would increase by 50 to 70 percent.
If approved, the city also will begin charging a fee of $10 per mile from the call address to the hospital. According to an ambulance user fee survey of 138 Chicago area emergency medical service providers, most departments already charge for mileage.
Fahy said Medicare and Medicaid recipients would not be affected by the higher fees, but people with group health insurance plans who pay 20 percent of the total bill would see an increase of about $20.
"It would be a minimal impact on the residents who use our service," Fahy said.
People without insurance still would be responsible for the entire bill.
A new charge for refusing advanced life support upon the arrival of emergency responders also is proposed. For nonresidents, the charge would be $400 each time. For residents, the charge would be $300 after the third occurrence in a 12-month period.
The increases would bring the fire department closer to covering vehicle costs from ambulance calls, but Fahy said that is a small portion of the total expense of running the department.
If council members approve the proposed changes Wednesday, an official vote will take place at the following council meeting with implementation toward the end of the year.