WASHINGTON COUNTY – With insurance companies only footing part of the bill, an ambulance ride can come at a high price for the customer.
County officials say the county, which operates the service, is in the same boat on the other side of the coin. Rising costs in supplies means having to raise service costs to local residents, according to Washington County EMS Director Randy Truette.
"A bag of fluids that used to cost us one dollar now costs us seven dollars," said Truette. "We have no choice but to raise our fees. We don’t charge nearly as much as some of the bigger counties, but there has been an increase."
Rates in the years 2013-2015 for Basic Life Support (BLS) for non emergencies were at $250 and emergencies at $350. Advanced Life Support (ALS) Level 1 rates started at $400 and Level 2 at $600. In the years 2016-2018 BLS for non emergencies rates rose to $475 and emergencies were at $575. Rates for ALS Level 1 rose to $650 and Level 2 to $800.
ALS Level 1 covers setting the patient up with an IV and or oxygen and transporting to their destination. Level 2 happens when medicine is given and life saving measures are used.
EMS services are funded in part by the county but most of their $1,300,000 budget comes from fees that have been assessed from insurance companies and private parties payments.
County Administrator Jeff Massey says the rising demand for services means the county must look for more revenue sources so as to not raise ad valorem any more.
"We are looking at alternative revenue sources such as economic development so we can begin to back off ad valorem," said Massey. "But we have no choice to pay because we have to provide these services to our citizens."
Massey says the county does its best to frugal as well as conscientious of taxpayer monies.
"Until we can get those other revenue sources, the county will have to be frugal in expenditures," said Massey. "We have to be good stewards of our taxpayers dollars, if we want to move our county forward."