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CK Fire looking to raise ambulance fees soon
Ambulance transport fees in the Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue District will most likely go up beginning March 1.
The CKFR board of commissioners began discussions on the subject this week and plan to take a vote on the matter in February.
Battalion Chief Joe Repar suggested that the rates increase 2.5 percent when he addressed the commission Monday. But commissioners felt that wasn’t within the policy that the board had previously set.
Commissioner Dick West said it had been the policy of the board to increase ambulance transfer fees at the same rate as the consumer price index, a standard measurement of inflation. The current CPI index is measuring inflation at 1.6 percent.
But Repar said his suggestion of 2.5 percent reflected a “minimum adjustment for durables and fuels which are constantly rising.”
During the discussion, commissioners brought up the idea of raising the per mile fee instead, from the current $15 a mile to $16 a mile.
Repar also asked commissioners to approve an additional itemized charge for five specific items. Those are an ECG (electrocardiogram) at $70, IV (intravenous fluids) or IO (intraosseous infusion) at $50, O2 (oxygen)at $50, SAO2 (oxygen saturation levels) at $15 and a C spine (cervical spine precautions) at $40.
“If you’re not itemizing, you’re leaving money on the table,” Repar said. “It’s very expensive to keep our ambulances running.”
He said if commissioners approved the 2.5 percent increase in transport rates and the itemization list, the district would net about $104,000. Based on an average of 3,089 transports per year, that would mean the district would make $1.32 million in 2014.
Current transport rates are advanced life support 2 (ALS2) at $873, which would increase to $895; ALS1 which is $770 and would increase to $789; basic life support (BLS) which is now $591 and would increase to $606. The more serious calls, hence, cost more.
Repar told the board that the increases would be charges on all transports, but that in reality, only about 33 to 35 percent of the transports would pay that amount. He said the others are individuals who are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, and those rates are set, and the district only recovered what Medicare and Medicaid will pay.
“It will be the transports who have private insurance who will pay the increased amounts,” he said.
Right now Medicare and Medicaid pay $260 for a BLS, $390 for an ALS and $500 for an ALS2, and it pays only $6.26 a mile, he said.
Commissioners asked how CKFR compared to other fire districts in the area and Repar said CKFR is currently the highest in Kitsap County, but that CKFR’s rates are comparable to averages within Puget Sound.
Ultimately, commissioners asked Repar to go back to the drawing board and create a proposal based on a 1.6 percent increase, with $16 per mile charge and bring that back to them in February. They want to know the dollar amount that would bring the district, and where that would put CKFR in comparison to other fire districts in Kitsap County. Commissioners said at that time they will also reconsider the itemization of some services.
Commissioners also began discussions about when to ask voters to renew the current EMS levy.
The current levy which is at 50 cent per $1,000 of assessed valuation of property in the district, will expire at the end of 2015, according to Chief Scott Weninger.
While the 2014 State Legislature may raise the maximum amount that can be charged to 75 cents per $1,000, commissioners agreed that they are looking at renewing at the current level, pending the outcome of the legislation.
Traditionally, CKFR has run their levies in the spring, the board was told, so to not conflict with other local governments who also have levies, such as the school district.
If the fire district does a mail-in election on his own, it will cost about $80,000. But if other governmental boards have ballot issues, that cost would be shared, Weninger said.
“Generally, an election in November costs less, because there’s always a ballot,” he said.
Weninger reminded the board that the levy makes up about 20 percent of the district’s annual budget, or $3.27 million in this year’s budget.
“If we don’t do it right and it runs out without being renewed, that’s what we’ll have to live without,” he said.
The chief said he wasn’t looking for a decision at this time, but rather ideas. He said the district could “get moving” and be ready to run the levy in November of this year, or wait until the spring of 2015.
“In that event, if it didn’t pass, we’d still have the November (2015) election to try again,” he said.
Commissioners asked that the district determine what other levies may be on upcoming ballots and bring that matter back to them for a decision.