Houston proposes 70% increase in ambulance transport fees: 7 things to know

Houston Fire Department leaders have proposed raising ambulance fees to curb unnecessary use of emergency medical services, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

Here are seven things to know:

1. The proposal would raise ambulance transport fees by 70 percent, to $1,876, according to the report. Patients would still be charged the supplementary $14.36-per-mile fee.

2. There are various individual charges within the proposal to cover expenses in instances when the city is unable to recoup the cost of responding to a call. According to the report, these include:

  • $365 when a patient dies on scene
  • $175 to move a caller from a wheelchair to a bed, or after a situation such as a fall at home or at a nursing home
  • $175 to treat a caller on scene who is not in need of a hospital transport

3. The city is not bringing in enough money to cover transport costs, as it only collects 40 percent of the $110 million in annual ambulance bills, the report states. Therefore, the proposal is to encourage city residents and workers at nursing facilities to only use Houston's trained paramedics for transport in emergency situations.

4. HFD Assistant Chief Justin Wells told Houston City Council members on July 10: "We're targeting the habitual people that call us day in and day out to move them from the bed to the wheelchair and two hours later they call us back to move them from the wheelchair to the bed. This spurs a discussion. These people that call routinely out of convenience instead of emergency, this might change their behavior."

5. During the fiscal year that ended June 30, Houston paramedics responded to calls that did not require a hospital transport nearly 30,000 times, according to Fire Chief Sam Peña.

6. While some city officials were supportive of the new fees and the need for the city to recoup appropriate reimbursement, there were also concerns, such as nursing home residents being charged for help getting back into bed even if it was facility staff who made the call. However, proponents of the measure say this could be avoided by assessing fees differently for residential and commercial callers, or only leveraging fees against repeat callers.

7. Discussions regarding the proposal are ongoing. If city officials approve the proposal, it would mark the first increase in six years outside of routine inflation adjustments, according to the report.

Read the Houston Chronicle's full story here.




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