Newport could charge residents in full for ambulance services

Because of lower Medicare reimbursements and higher costs, Newport Beach is considering charging residents the full cost for ambulance services.

As it stands, the city subsidizes half of the costs for residents, while it charges non-residents the full amount.

The proposed increase would bring in nearly $320,000 more for the city each year, according to a staff report prepared for Tuesday's City Council meeting.

One of the reasons for increasing the rate, the report says, is that Medicare is paying the city 3% to 5% less in ambulance reimbursements, beginning this fiscal year.

The majority of the city's ambulance rides are covered by Medicare, and this change is expected to cost the city an additional $116,000 per year.

It's unclear how many residents pay out-of-pocket for ambulance services.

"Unfortunately, the seniors lose out, because they are the ones using the service most frequently," said Cheryl Meronk, chief executive of the Council on Aging Orange County.

Besides the change in Medicare, the cost for providing ambulance services has also increased, the report said.

Currently, residents pay $348 while non-residents pay $695. The new fee would be a $704 flat rate.

Alternatively, residents can sign up for the city's Fire Medics service for $48 per year. The service would allow unlimited paramedic services and emergency ambulance transportation with no out-of-pocket expense to the subscriber.

A representative from the Newport Beach Fire Department was not available for comment Friday.

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