City board approves increase in fees for ambulance service

September 05, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

The cost of being transported by a city ambulance to a hospital is going up -- but not as much as originally proposed.

Baltimore's Board of Estimates yesterday unanimously approved an increase in fees from $75 to $150 for basic ambulance service, and from $100 to $250 for advanced life support transport.

Two months ago, the Baltimore Fire Department, which operates the ambulance service, proposed increasing both fees to $475, the maximum acceptable level under federal guidelines, to ease the service's strain on its budget. But some officials expressed concern that many city residents wouldn't be able to afford levies that high.

The rates approved yesterday -- the first increase in ambulance fees in seven years -- take effect immediately, Fire Department spokesman Hector L. Torres said.

Even with the lesser increase, one board member continued to worry about the effect of the higher fees on the poor.

"We want to be very careful we don't burden those people who can't pay," said City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III.

Norman B. Johnson, the Fire Department's chief of fiscal services, told the board that most of the higher fees would be paid by insurers, not individuals, and promised: "We're not going to refuse service to anyone. We're going to respond first."

Johnson also told the board that the Fire Department was preparing to privatize its fee collection to improve the collection rate. Last year, the Fire Department collected $950,000 of the $6.9 million it was owed for transporting patients. The total cost for the ambulance service was $9 million. Tax dollars paid the difference.

Johnson said the fee increase was designed to "lessen the burden of ambulance service on our budget and on the city. If enough money is generated, we want to enhance ambulance service" with more ambulances.

In other action yesterday, the board:

Established a requirement that city contractors allow workers to enroll in employee-sponsored benefit programs through payroll deductions.

Approved the creation of a $250,000 "petty cash" fund for the administration of special education programs, with the proviso that the fund be reviewed quarterly by the city auditor.

Pub Date: 9/05/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.