Edmonds in discussion on Medic 7 fees

By Janice Podsada

Herald Writer

EDMONDS — The City Council will consider whether to charge Medic 7 transport fees as a new source of revenue.

City council president Dave Earling said the issue is at the discussion stage.

"The whole council was challenged with finding new revenue sources," Mayor Gary Haakenson said. "It’s one of many topics they’ll be discussing."

Under the current system, patients aren’t billed when a Medic 7 aid car transports them to the hospital. If a patient is stable, firefighters generally call a private ambulance.

Basic life support services are provided by medics in the city’s fire department, while advanced life support services are provided by Medic 7.

In 1996, the council approved a $400 Medic 7 transport fee.

But soon after, a citizens group asked the city to rescind it if voters approved an Emergency Medical Services levy raising taxes from 45 to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.

The EMS levy passed in November 1997, and the $400 transport fee was dropped. The citizens group also got the city to agree not to charge transport fees until at least June 30, 2000.

But in recent years, transport fees have become the norm in Snohomish County, said Brad Redding, Fire District 1 deputy chief of operations.

"Snohomish, Monroe, Marysville, Woodway, Mountlake Terrace charges. Everett does not, but Everett uses a lot of private ambulances," Redding said.

"The trend statewide is to use a lot of private ambulances or to charge transport fees."

Transport fees generally average between $300 to $500, depending on the level of care, Redding said.

The fees are generally reimbursed by private insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare payments.

"When fire departments charge transport fees they’re typically lower than private," said Redding, who was Mountlake Terrace’s fire chief when transport fees were imposed four years ago.

"At the time, we went to the citizens and did a survey. They said they would rather have more user fees than raise property taxes," Redding said "We didn’t look at it for profit, we looked at it for cost recovery."

Cost recovery, not profit, also is driving the Edmonds council to discuss imposing transport fees, Haakenson said.

Mountlake Terrace City Manager Connie Fessler said the city’s Emergency Medical Services levy did not begin to cover the cost of service.

"We have not yet taken anyone to collections, and the number of private pays is minuscule."

Haakenson said the council’s discussion of transport fees is part of a year-long study to suggest ways to recoup revenues that were lost because of the passage of Initiative 695, which significantly cut revenue from vehicle license renewal fees.

You can call Herald Writer Janice Podsada at 425-339-3029 or send e-mail to podsada@heraldnet.com.

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