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For the week of September 27 through October 3, 2000

County hikes
ambulance fees

Express Staff Writer

Patients in Blaine County can expect to pay double the current fees for some emergency medical services beginning in October.

During a brief meeting Monday afternoon, the county commissioners voted unanimously to amend a schedule of about 10 different fees the county charges for providing ground and air ambulance transportation, rescue operations and other emergency medical assistance.

The fee increases follow a recommendation made by The Abaris Group, which the county hired to review emergency medical service operations. Located in Walnut Creek, Calif., The Abaris Group is a healthcare consulting firm specializing in emergency services.

According to Jeff Nevins, assistant chief for Wood River Fire and Rescue, the county is increasing the fees largely to pay for new paramedic-level service the county plans to offer. Currently, the county has emergency medical technicians, which are less skilled than paramedics.

Nevins said in a Tuesday interview that recent increases in Medicare reimbursement rates have also motivated the county to increase fees.

Patients now pay from $265 to $480 for basic or advanced life support, depending on whether they are residents or nonresidents. The new charge for all patients is $550 for both basic and advanced life support.

Ambulance mileage rates are currently $2.50 to $5 per mile depending on the number of patients transported. The new rate will be $9 per mile for all patients.

Rates for back country rescues, air transportation, extraction from automobile accidents and other services stay the same.

Under the old rate schedule, patients paid separately for bandages, blankets, neck braces and other supplies. But under the new schedule patients are not charged for supplies, Nevins said.

The county reviews the fees once a year, Nevins said, but even though fees were also raised last year, increases are not an annual occurrence.


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