Recent passage of a state statute has allowed the city to raise its minimum ambulance service charges, recouping some of the expense it incurs to offer the service.
Before the statute, which allows cities to charge a higher base rate based on the type of services the city has capabilities for, Spanish Fork charged three different base rates for ambulance service: $160 per hour for basic life support service, $180 per hour for intermediate life support service and $190 per hour for advanced life support service, in addition to other standard charges like fuel costs, City Administrator David Oyler said.However, state regulations allow the City Council to impose the $190 per hour rate, in addition to other charges, because the Spanish Fork ambulance service is accredited for its advanced life support services, Oyler said. The council has approved the increase, effective Jan. 1.
"What the ruling does is allow each individual city to be able to charge a standard rate for its ability to service certain situations," he said. "Every city has a different rating for the level and quality of services the provide for, and this will allow them to charge accordingly."
According to Oyler, before the new rates, the city responded to roughly 400 calls within city boundaries, which cost it approximately $110,000. Under the old rate structure, the city was only taking in approximately $50,000 for those calls and subsidizing the remainder.
Oyler estimates the new rate structure will bring in an additional $20,000 to $25,000, somewhat easing the burden on the city budget.
One group that will not see its rates increase, however, are senior citizens. Elderly residents who have their medical costs taken care of by Medicare currently are charged the basic rate, and often Medicare only takes care of a portion of that cost.
Spanish Fork does not bill the elderly for the remaining costs and will continue that provision in the future, despite the rate increase, he said.
"If all Medicare will take care of is $120 of the costs, then that's all we'll charge."
The rate increase is actually the second by the city this year. After the new county fire and emergency contract with 14 Utah County cities, including Spanish Fork, last December, the city began charging the county $60 per hour for ambulance service in areas out of its territorial limits in addition to the basic rate charged to those receiving the service.
Those areas included unincorporated portions of the county like Lake Shore, Leland and Benjamin. The $60 hourly rate is paid by the county from special service district public service funds.