Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ambulance Fees

One of the biggest issues that many residents have is the concept of ambulance fees. El Segundo residents have always benefited from an unofficial city policy not to pursue remuneration beyond what the resident's insurance is willing to pay. If a resident calls 911, the response to the residence or business is free. Any medical services administered on scene of the emergency are free. Once the patient is transported, then the billing starts.

Ambulance transport billing rates are regulated by the L.A. County EMS Department, ordinance 7.16.280 and 7.16.310. These  rates apply to all public and private entities, which they cannot exceed. The current ambulance transportation billing rates in El Segundo are broken up into 5 parts:

  1. ALS (advanced life support) service = $1,146 (1,232.50 maximum rate)
  2. BLS (basic life support) service = $802.75 (863.25)
  3. Code 3 (lights and sirens) Transport = $109.75 (118.00)
  4. Oxygen Therapy = $55.00 (59.25)
  5. Mileage = $15.75/mile (17.00)
You are either charged for ALS or BLS, never both together. You only get charged "Code 3" if they transport you "Code 3."

The city outsources to a billing company to handle and generate invoices. Once payment is received by the city from the billing company the process is finished, no matter what percentage of the bill was paid by the insurance company. And, if the resident has no insurance, the city will not pursue payment and subsidize the cost. Plainly stated, whatever the city does not receive from the insurance company it will subsidize the remainder. This is not true for non-residents. The City will pursue non-residents for full payment.

For the time period 8/01/09 through 7/31/10, the city subsidized $84,000. This number has relatively been the same through the years. 

The major issue for concerned residents is they are worried that if L.A. County were to take over jurisdiction they would use private ambulance companies to transport to the hospitals, thereby voiding the unofficial contract with the city to subsidize any individual costs. I completely understand this plight shared by many residents who frequently rely on transport to the hospital. If suddenly they are forced to pay the remainder of the ambulance bill then it would dramatically effect how they are able to survive, and may even put them under.

The concept is, the city already subsidizes the ambulance fees. If they currently factor this into their budget, why can't the city simply continue to pay the resident's portion of the bill? The rates for public and private are regulated the same. McCormick will bill your insurance then send you a bill for the remainder. Simply send the bill to the city, and they should be willing to continue to pay for your ambulance fees.

This should not be a hard concept for the City Council to understand, nor should it be a platform for them to argue against L.A. County and private ambulances. It is merely a different way of doing business to reach the same objective: do not charge El Segundo Residents for ambulance transport.

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