Two more counties, one in Virginia and one in Florida, have joined the ranks of many other municipalities across the country that are charging for services rendered. County administrators cite the cost of equipment and training-particularly for terrorist-related emergencies-as the reason for moving to more of a paid service.
In Chesterfield County, VA, the charges will begin in July. For basic life support, people transported to a hospital will be charged $350 plus $7.50. Advanced life support carries a $385 plus mileage charge. Volunteer rescue squads in the county will have the option of participating.
according to County officials, commercial health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid would cover most patients’ ambulance fees. Residents will be given the option of paying a subscription fee of $59 that would cover unlimited ambulance transportation. Patients who cannot afford to pay will receive transport based on a pay scale not yet determined.
The county expects to receive approximately $500,000 by January 2003, and will use the money to hire additional firefighters and purchase quick-response vehicles. Some of the money will also be used to purchase equipment to deal with terrorist threats and a full-time medical director.
In Columbia County, FL, commissioners were to decide on November 6 how to assess residents for fire protection and emergency medical services, after deciding to discontinue EMS assessments for the 2001-2002 fiscal year. The county restructured its budget so that more state revenue sharing will be allocated to EMS, creating a larger assessment for fire protection.
The proposal calls for residents to pay $68 for fire protection next year. Both counties are following a trend, which is slowly picking up steam across the country. Charging for services rendered, if the organization is volunteer, poses a potential public relations problem with the residents. Although the events of September 11 have heightened the public’s awareness of the services that fire departments and EMS departments provide, some residents may not accept with open arms the idea of being charged for services rendered by a “volunteer” organization. If your department decides to go that route, be sure that you develop a specific plan and anticipate the concerns residents may raise so that you will be prepared to address them.