L.A. City Council considers ambulance fee hike

LOS ANGELES When an ambulance rolls to an emergency, you don't think about money at the time, but ambulances could cost you a lot.

"It's expensive. There's no question. People can get to their own doctor or get to the emergency room on their own. But if they call for a paramedic unit, an ambulance, there is a cost," said L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine.

The fees for basic life support would go from $712 to $974. The fees for advanced life support would go from just over $1,000 to $1,373. In addition, the city charges nearly $16 per mile.

"People say they pay taxes. What do you pay it for? It is a balance. I don't want to see us have to cut engine companies," said L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge.

For seniors and the poor, /*Medicare*/ and /*Medi-Cal*/ cover ambulance fees, but if someone has private insurance and it doesn't cover the full amount, they could be billed for the difference.

The city is considering a yearly fee that would allow you to get ambulance service as often as you need it.

"That's something that other jurisdictions have done. Our fire department is recommending that we actually go to that system as well, and it's going to be on a volunteer basis," said L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas.

The last fee increase was two years ago. The current new fee could generate about $6 million for the fire department next year. That money would help offset the $225 million annual cost of the city's Emergency Ambulance Service program. According to the fire department, last year, the city collected $58 million from emergency medical service revenue.

Officials say the goal in all of this is to maintain service.

"We just needed to increase our fees to be able to recover some of our ambulance service fees," said /*L.A. City Fire*/ Battalion Chief Ronnie Villanueva, who added that the quality of service will remain constant.

The fee hike is still in its proposal change, so details could change. It is expected to head to the full /*L.A. City Council*/ early next week.

AP contributed to this report.

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