City of Tracy, CA Joins Statewide Trend to Recover Costs of Its Emergency Medical Services

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The City of Tracy has joined a number of cities in the State of California in adopting an Emergency Medical Services Cost Recovery Fee Program. Effective at a date to be announced, a $300 fee for Tracy residents will be charged for services rendered for responses that meet the criteria for advanced life support and/or basic life support as defined by the California Health and Safety Code (Sections 1797.52 and 1797.60). The City Of Tracy does not charge for calls made to the 911 system and there is no plan to do so. The new cost recovery fee and related household and business membership program are efforts to help offset rising costs for public services alongside reduced general funds.

During these times of increasing public service costs and decreasing general funds to pay for these services, governments must be smart in their implementation of strategies that can support these vital services.

The City of Tracy does not charge for calls made to the 911 system and there is no plan to do so.

The City of Tracy has joined a number of cities in the State of California in adopting an Emergency Medical Services Cost Recovery Fee Program. Effective at a date to be announced, a $300 fee for Tracy residents will be charged for services rendered for responses that meet the criteria for advanced life support and/or basic life support as defined by the California Health and Safety Code (Sections 1797.52 and 1797.60).

Begun in southern California, the cost recovery program helps pay for the optional emergency medical services fire departments provide their communities. Members of the Tracy community will pay $300 for emergency services meeting the criteria established. People from outside Tracy can be billed $400. In either case, these fees can be submitted by individuals to their insurance carriers for partial or whole reimbursement.

In an effort to offset any sudden payment, citizens can opt for a subscription service of $4 a month or $48 annually ($36 for low income households). This allows individuals a chance to avoid ever having to pay the $300 fee. There are additional membership options for businesses.

In fiscal year 2008-2009, the City of Tracy Fire Department responded to 2,500 medical emergencies. Fire Division Chief David Bramell states about the service cost recovery program that “EMS fees are based on the philosophy of funding “public good” services (those benefiting everyone) with broad general taxes and “private good” services (those benefiting specific users) with appropriate user fees. General tax revenue continues to provide the vast majority of funding for fire stations, equipment and staffing while these user fees will supplement specific equipment and training required for those individuals who provide emergency medical services to residents and non-residents.”

In addition, Chief Bramell points out that the Fire Chief can waive the fee in exceptional or unusual circumstances. City Manager Leon Churchill emphasized that the City will make the final determination on collections, not an outside third party and encourages its citizens to join the EMS Membership Program to avoid any sudden fees. The City will publicize the membership program option and in addition, will work with individuals and their insurance carriers when possible to collect the use fees. There will be an appeals process for any program complaints.

City Manager Churchill describes “During these times of increasing public service costs and decreasing general funds to pay for these services, governments must be smart in their implementation of plans and strategies that continue to offer high quality services with fair transfer of associated costs to those who benefit from those services. The City of Tracy offers its EMS Membership Program as a solution for its community that is affordable and straightforward for city staff to manage.”

The EMS Membership Program is a voluntary program open to residents of the City of Tracy, and any business located in and possessing a business license issued by the City of Tracy. Eligibility may be established through current utility bills, rent receipts, or other forms of identification which clearly reflect residence or business location within the City. Participants in good standing of the EMS Membership Program that do not have insurance that would otherwise cover the costs will not be charged the EMS Fee if service is rendered.

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Tony Sheneman
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