Utah residents will be paying a higher base rate for ambulance service after a statewide mandate went into effect July 1.
The rates for basic ground ambulance service in the state rose 15 percent, from $465 in 2009 to $535 in 2010. This increase is much higher than in previous years as the rate increased, from $463.90 in 2008 to $465 last year.
The increase, which will run through the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2011, is due to a number of issues including areas such as the costs of diesel fuel, training for emergency personnel and medicare and medicaid reimbursements rates falling, according to Allan Liu, a financial analyst with the bureau of emergency medical services of the Utah Department of Health.
Ambulance rates are not set by each specific county in the state, Liu said. Instead the Department of Health sets the rates by collecting and analyzing data from all across the state and then determining what rate would help pay for the services provided.
"Ambulance service rates are treated like other utilities," Liu said. "We don't look at just one community. Instead we look at things from a statewide perspective. The rate is determined by looking at the entire state from a collective standpoint and creating a rate that helps make sure that the services can be paid for."
Places like Sunnyside and East Carbon will be affected differently than places such as Salt Lake City, Liu said.
Ambulance rates are separated into three different categories including basic, intermediate and paramedic ground ambulance. The basic ground ambulance rate, which includes Sunnyside, is at $535. For those in the intermediate level the base rate is $707 and those within the paramedic ground ambulance category is at $1,035 per transport.
Rates were flat last year, Liu said, creating the need for an increase in the ambulance rates across the state this year.
Also included within the state wide order are increases in the mileage rates and special provisions. The standard mileage rate is $31.65 per mile or fraction thereof. In all cases, mileage shall be computed from the point of pickup to the point of delivery, according to statistics posted on the Department of Health website.
The order also includes the possibility of rising costs of fuel, stating that when diesel prices exceed $5.10 per gallon or gasoline exceeds $4.25 per gallon as invoiced, a surcharge of $0.25 per mile of transport may be added to the mileage rate. Off-road rates have also been affected by the mandate. Where the ambulance is required to travel for 10 or more miles on unpaved roads, a surcharge of $1.50 per mile traveled may be assessed, according to DOH statistics.
A special provisions area of the mandate concerning waiting time says that an ambulance shall provide 15 minutes of time at no extra charge at both the point of pickup and delivery. After that, a charge of $22.05 may be charged per every quarter hour or fraction thereof. On round trips, an ambulance shall provide 30 minutes at no charge from the time the ambulance reaches the point of delivery until starting the return trip. After 30 minutes, the ambulance service may charge $22.05 per quarter hour or fraction thereof thereafter, according to DOH statistics.
A ground ambulance or paramedic provider is prohibited from charging fees for transporting a patient when the provider does not transport the patient. This does not apply to ambulance providers or paramedic providers in a geographic service area which contains a town as defined in Subsection 10-2-301 (2) f, according to information on the DOH website.
At the Sunnyside city council meeting on Tuesday night, council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Sunnyside City Ambulance to increase rates according to the state order. Sunnyside Mayor Doug Parsons said the state order is a standard increase the city deals with each year.