City council declines fee increases

By Observer Upload March 14, 2013 10:02 am

by Kelly Black/For The Observer

UNION — The Union City Council declined to raise ambulance service fees Monday night.

A resolution to increase emergency service fees in order to cover costs associated with operations failed to receive council support. Ambulance service fees have not been changed since April 2010.

The current fee for a basic ambulance run is $1,000 and the proposed new fee would have been $1,400. Advanced care runs would have seen a $200 increase. The ambulance currently charges a patient $17.75 per mile and the proposed new fee would have hiked the rate to $20 per mile. Other increases were for ambulance cleaning, aid calls and a community fee.

According to Fire Chief Keith Montgomery, 12 percent of patients who used the ambulance service last year had insurance that would pay the increased fees. The remainder of the calls were for patients who are uninsured or have government insurance such as Medicare or Medicaid that already pay less than what is currently billed.

Councilor Scott Yeager called the proposed fee increase, which targets the 12 percent who have insurance that will pay, an indirect tax on the working class.

“It would be better to raise up our monthly user fees to pay for it across the board,” Yeager said. 

Revenue for the emergency medical services comes from service fees charged to patients and a monthly user fee paid by residents.

In an effort to increase revenue, Montgomery is changing how the EMS bills for response to motor vehicle accidents. Recently, the department responded to a motor vehicle accident where the patient did not have insurance.

“Their auto insurance is going to catch the bill for the ambulance,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery appealed to the council that both the fire and ambulance departments are hurting financially and in dire need of new equipment, including self-contained breathing apparatuses and fire trucks.

“The money has to come from some place to update equipment,” said Montgomery, “whether we raise the users fees or we charge the 12 percent more.” 

After discussion and failure to secure support for the fee increase, the council opted to set a work session to discuss all potential revenue sources, including service and user fees. A revised resolution to increase fees could be presented at the next city council meeting.

Mayor Bill Lindsley told the council that contract negotiations with the Rural Fire Protection District were progressing smoothly.

“Most of the humps and bumps are starting to get smoothed out,” Lindsley said.