By Tim Cox
Ambulance runs across Mercer County will cost $50 more beginning Jan. 1, and patients transported to area hospitals will for the first time be charged a fee for mileage.
Mercer County Commissioners approved the rate increase last week and in a related move, increased the reimbursement paid directly to the mostly volunteer Emergency Medical Service squads who drive the ambulances by $25. Only the city of Celina employs full-time paramedics.
The new rate starting next year for a basic ambulance run involving a transport to an area hospital will cost $300. Ambulance runs involving advanced life support will cost $375 or $400, depending on what drugs and/or treatments are administered.
Patients who refuse treatment and are not transported will be billed $25 per incident, but the price rises to $50 per run if there are three or more non-transport incidents involving the same person during a calendar year.
The rate is $100 per run for patients who are treated but not transported. The new mileage charge is $5 per loaded mile. A loaded mile is defined as the distance between the site where a patient is picked up to the destination point. Patients who are not transported will not be charged mileage for an emergency squad to respond.
The commissioners' resolution calls for the money raised from the mileage fees is to be set aside to pay for repair and replacement of ambulances.
The fee increases were recommended by the county EMS Advisory Board and unanimously supported by commissioners.
Commissioners also favored the bump in payments to the squads. The money helps pays for replacement of materials, equipment and fuel, and volunteer squad members receive small stipends for their service. Most earn only a few hundred dollars per year.
The squad teams located in villages throughout the area will receive $100 per transport they make. Squads will not be reimbursed for runs they make where patients are not taken to hospitals.
The squad payments do not apply for Celina-based units of the county EMS.