The cost of an ambulance trip to the hospital could go up by $100 if a proposal by Ashland Fire & Rescue is approved by Jackson County.
AFR officials say the increase is necessary because of declining reimbursement levels from federal Medicare and Medicaid programs and the state-run Oregon Health Plan.
Greg Case, AFR emergency medical services division chief, said Medicare, Medicaid and the Oregon Health Plan pay less than 50 percent of what AFR bills for ambulance service.
"We just got another 2 percent reduction from the Oregon Health Plan," he said.
Uninsured people, who make up about 12 percent of AFR's patients, would bear the brunt of the $100 fee increase. Out-of-pocket expenses would vary for others based on their private insurance, public health coverage and whether they have supplemental Medicare plans.
AFR covers a 650-square-mile area of southern Jackson County, Case said. The base charge for a one-way trip to a hospital is $921.37. There is also a $14 per mile fee, he said.
Case said the $100 fee increase would bring AFR's ambulance charges in line with other ambulance services in the area.
Jackson County commissioners, who are responsible by law for regulating ambulance service, must hold a public hearing before deciding whether to grant AFR's request. A public hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Case said people can protect themselves from unexpected ambulance bills by purchasing a FireMed ambulance membership.
For $55 per year, the FireMed membership covers ground ambulance transportation for everyone in a household.
The FireMed Plus program costs $95 per year and covers ground ambulance transportation plus emergency helicopter transportation.
Ambulance services covering two-thirds of Oregon recognize each other's subscribers and will transport patients, with the trips covered by the FireMed program, according to the FireMed website.
A typical ambulance trip can cost $1,300 or more, the website states.
The website allows people to fill out an online application and pay via credit card.
For more information on FireMed ambulance insurance or to sign up, call 541-488-6009 or visit https://www.firemed.org/Ashland/.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.