Second reading and vote on transport fee is Feb. 7

The Mercer Island City Council will hear a second reading and vote on the proposed emergency services transport ordinance and fee on Feb. 7 at the regular City Council meeting. If approved, the ordinance — entitled Basic Life Support (BLS), transport fees for those persons receiving emergency medical services (EMS) — would authorize the city to direct Mercer Island firefighters to transport patients to area hospitals for a fee. The fee, ordinarily charged by private ambulance services to patients and/or their insurance companies, would be billed and collected by the city instead.

If approved, the program will be reviewed for efficacy after a year’s implementation.

The City Council approved a transport fee amount of $770 via Resolution No. 1437, approved on Dec. 6, 2010.

Proposed Ordinance No. 11C-01 authorizes the implementation of the BLS transport fee service through an amendment to Mercer Island City Code. Currently, the city does not charge EMS transportation fees to those receiving BLS transport from the city’s fire department, even though the fees are generally covered by most medical insurance policies, including but not limited to Medicare and Medicaid. The ordinance provides for the fees as established by resolution of the City Council. The city is contracting with a billing service to bill and collect the fees.

The city’s policy is clear: ability to pay is never a condition of service. The ordinance identifies the criteria for payment. If someone is indigent and has no insurance, they will receive the transport and will not be required to pay. Monies received from the transport user fees, the EMS utility and the voter-approved King County levy will not exceed the city’s actual total costs to provide EMS.

The City Council will decide whether or not to extend the transport fees after the one-year trial period, as the ordinance only authorizes fees to be imposed for transport services provided between Feb. 25, 2011 and Feb. 24, 2012. If the city wishes to continue charging transport fees after the trial period, a new ordinance amending the Mercer Island City Code would be necessary.

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