City Council on Monday approved legislation that will boost fees for the first time in seven years.
Council voted 5-1 to approve the hikes, which will raise fees from $375 for basic ambulance runs to $450, and ambulance runs for transportation of persons requiring a degree of emergency medical care from $475 to $750.
Councilman Dennis Boose, D-2nd Ward, who cast the lone “no” vote on the measure, said he wholeheartedly supports raising fees. Boose told Fire Chief John Reese he would have liked to have had the chance to discuss the fees before voting on them.
“I totally agree we need to increase fees as soon as possible as our (city) budget needs help from every legitimate source of revenue,” Boose said. “But just not at these numbers (fee hikes).”
The same fees are charged to residents and non-residents, although city residents are not billed directly for services. Fees instead are sent to Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance, Reese said.
“We accept what insurers say for North Ridgeville residents,” Reese said, noting that most ambulance-paramedic costs are paid from residents’ auto insurance.
Reese said city residents pay for ambulance services via the city’s 1.75-mill paramedic-ambulance levy that generates $1.2 million annually, and is up for renewal this May.
The increased fees are projected to generate an average $27,000 more in revenue, Reese said, adding that the $375 fee that has been charged to residents and non-residents alike for years is inadequate. “We’ve been under-collecting for years.”
The fee increases were proposed based in part on a survey of similar charges by fire departments in surrounding communities including Avon, North Olmsted, Berea and Olmsted Township, which charge an average ambulance fee of $655, Reese said.
“Based on what insurance allows and what surrounding communities are charging, these fees will bring us more in line with everyone,” Reese said.
While acknowledging the sizable increase in costs for ambulance runs requiring emergency medical care by paramedics, Reese termed the new $750 fee “the best deal in medical care anyone will get.”
Reese said the city has never pursued non-residents who did not pay their ambulance bills, noting the city figures it has more than $100,000 in unpaid ambulance fees dating to 2008.
“Legally we can go back 15 years (to try to collect),” Reese said.
Councilman Robert Olesen, R, at-large, was absent because he is recovering from recent surgery, said Councilman Dr. Ron Arndt, R-3rd Ward.