Those receiving emergency medical attention from Long Beach Fire Department personnel may soon be subject to a $250 fee, which fire officials hope will help offset costs for the financially strapped department.
The First Responder Fee will be considered during a Long Beach City Council meeting Tuesday, July 21, and could potentially be implemented by mid-August if the council approves the resolution, according to Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Rich Brandt.
Fire officials say patients evaluated and treated by first responders would receive a bill from the city, or, if transported, would get the bill added to charges for ambulance transport services.
Those covered by private insurance, Medicare or MediCal would need to provide their medical insurance information to the city, which would then bill the appropriate insurance company or governmental agency, according to the staff report.
For those not able to afford such a fee, Brandt said the city would review filings on a case-by-case basis.
In addition, Brandt stated that during times of fiscal hardship, the city has the ability to evaluate and reduce the financial impact on those who cannot afford the fees.
The fee will help pay for labor, equipment and supplies associated with sending out a fire engine to medical incidents—which includes three emergency medical technicians and one paramedic.
About 85 percent of all fire engine responses are medical incidents.
According to fire officials, the fees would create $1.8 million in new revenue. Currently, the department has budgeted $11.3 million in ambulance transport revenue for the 2015 fiscal year, with the cost of providing paramedic services totaling $22.1 million annually.
Brandt said though the 2016 budget looks okay, fire officials are more concerned about the projected 2017 and 2018 budgets.
Nearby fire departments have similar first responder fees, with the Alhambra Fire Department charging $250 and the Anaheim Fire Department charging $350.
Brandt said the fees would go into the general fund, which the city council and city manager would then allocate toward the fire department.
“The last few years we’ve cut back and we really can’t cut back any further,” Brandt said. “The budgets are tight right now so we’re trying to come up with ways to fill or mitigate those problems a little bit so we don’t have to reduce services any further.”
Above, left photo by Stephanie Rivera.