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SKFR hiking its ambulance fees

In an attempt to both offset recent fuel hikes and increase its fleet of paramedics, South Kitsap Fire and Rescue raised its fees last month for ambulance transports.

The new fees, which amount to a $100 increase in the billing rates for both Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) responses, are already in effect after being passed unanimously by the SKFR Board of Commissioners on June 22.

The new rates were recommended by SKFR Battalion Chief Cliff Wilson, who was prompted to evaluate the district’s fees after Commissioner Dave Gelsleichter asked how the recent hike in fuel costs was affecting the district’s budget.

Wilson said the rates fire districts charge for transports are designed to recoup the costs of the drugs, equipment, fuel and staff time provided when taking patients to the hospital.

Previously, Wilson said SKFR was charging $450 for ALS and $350 for BLS transports, along with $8 per mile. Once he compared those rates to those charged by surrounding districts in Kitsap and Mason counties, Wilson said it became clear SKFR’s were the lowest.

“We were at the very bottom,” he said, explaining that with the increases, the district’s rates are now closer to the middle, although a bit above average at the 60 to 70 percent range.

“We are trying to be the best stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” he said, explaining that the higher billing fees will allow the district to recoup more money, but only from half of the transports, which average about 3,500 a year for SKFR.

This is because fully half of the district’s calls involve patients receiving either Medicaid or Medicare, which both pay a set amount for each instance regardless of how much the agency bills.

For example, the Medicare reimbursement is capped at $450 for each ALS response and $350 for each BLS response, and mileage at $6.05/per mile.

Consequently, Wilson explained, the district will only collect its higher billing rates on about half of its transports.

According to Wilson, Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue currently charges $550 for ALS and $400 for BLS, and $9 for mileage. North Kitsap Fire and Rescue and Poulsbo charge the same rates, which are $550 ALS, $350 BLS and $10 per mile.

The highest rates are charged by Mason County, he said, at $700 ALS and $25 for BLS, and Olympic Ambulance, a private company, which charges $630 ALS, $395 BLS, and $14.75 for mileage.

Wilson said the last time the district raised its ambulance billing rates was in 2004.

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