Ambulance fees could increase

COSTA MESA — A resolution on the City Council's agenda Tuesday aims to increase revenue from ambulance pickups six-fold and save a job in the fire department, according to a staff report.

If approved, the resolution would hike the Advanced Life Support fee from the city's Care Ambulance Service from $185 to $300.

The fee currently applies only to non-residents taken to the hospital by a Costa Mesa paramedic. But if the resolution is adopted, residents would be charged as well.

The expense is typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid or a third-party insurer. If a resident does not have insurance to cover the life-support fee, they would not be charged, Fire Department Chief Mike Morgan said.

Billing residents' insurers instead of just absorbing the cost as was done in the past, plus raising the fee, is expected to bring in $338,000 annually. The city now only makes $51,000 annually from the fee, according to the staff report.

"We're being ultra-conservative on the estimate," Morgan said, referring to officials only counting on the fee being paid 40% of the time.

Even at $300, the fee is lower than fees charged by the Orange County Fire Authority and county cities like Garden Grove and Anaheim.

"The ultimate goal is to maintain a high-quality paramedic program," Morgan said. "There's costs involved to do that. This will help the city fund the training, equipment and all the things that are involved to provide that service to residents. It's not going to affect residents at all financially."

The fire department plans on using nearly half of the revenue to keep the Emergency Medical Services Coordinator, who oversees EMS training, materials and billing and contracts with ambulance services.

The rest of the money, an estimated $195,275, would go directly to city coffers, according to a staff report.

If You Go

What: Costa Mesa City Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Council Chambers, City Hall, 77 Fair Drive

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