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Ambulance fees rise starting Sept. 1

Starting Sept. 1, a ride in one of these will cost more. Keizer Fire officials say their rate increase came in part due to surrounding agencies doing the same. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

An ambulance trip will cost more beginning Sept. 1 when fees for some Keizer Fire District services increase.

The rates are climbing in response to fee hikes by Rural Metro, a private contractor that provides ambulance services in Salem. The City of Salem approved a rate hike for Rural Metro earlier this summer and both Keizer Fire District and Marion County Fire District are raising their rates to keep costs in line throughout the area.

“Because all three districts end up responding to calls in the territory of the neighbors, we’re trying to avoid patients calling in and requesting ambulance response from the cheapest district,” said Randy Jackson, deputy chief of the Keizer Fire District.

Following Rural Metro’s increase tactics, the Keizer Fire District is implementing hikes on select services rather than an across-the-board increase. That translates into some services more than doubling in cost while others are getting a much smaller bump.

“Our fee for a transfer is going from $270 to $586, but those are infrequent. We might only make 3-4 transfer calls in a month,” Jackson said.

Transfer calls are typically non-emergency calls that involve transporting patients from a care facility to the hospital.

“Even on those calls we still have to send out an ambulance and another vehicle to carry EMT/paramedics to assist with the transfer,” Jackson said.

The fees for emergency basic life service calls – typically falls, headaches and seizures – will increase from $586 to $740.  Such calls comprise more than 60 percent of all the district’s services.

While some fire districts and departments charge a flat fee for ambulance services, KFD’s rates are more varied because the district is partially supported by tax revenues.

Most are unlikely to notice the increase since about 70 percent of the Keizer Fire District’s clientele are covered by either Medicare or Medicaid. The remaining 30 percent are covered by either private insurance and pay only a deductible or are uninsured.

Uninsured patients are billed individually, but the district works with such patients to create installment plans.

Residents living within the region covered by Keizer and Marion County Fire districts or Salem Fire Department may also enroll in Capitol FireMed for an annual fee of $50 which covers ambulance transportation everyone in a household. Information on Capitol FireMed is available at the Keizer Fire District office, 661 Chemawa Rd NE.