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Hall County to increase ambulance fees
Hall County Fire Services’ Eron Sunshine walks into the Northeast Georgia Medical Center emergency room to complete his duties Thursday afternoon after bringing a patient to the hospital. Hall County is going to increase the amount charged for emergency transportation.

A trip in an ambulance soon may get pricier.

Hall County Fire Services has asked the county’s board of commissioners to authorize the department to begin charging patients for miles driven within the county.

"We’re way under what most counties charge," said Hall County Fire Chief and EMA Director David Kimbrell.

Currently, ambulance transportation within the county is free. Transportation outside the county, such as taking a patient to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, costs $8 per mile from the county line.

"The new fee structure would be $9 per mile inside and outside the county. But only patient-loaded miles," Kimbrell said. "Most counties charge an average of $11 or $12 per mile."

Patient-loaded miles are calculated once the patient is loaded onto the ambulance, and they will be charged per mile to the destination.

Emergency fees have not increased since 2002, and all emergency fees would be increased to stay in line with the amount the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will reimburse, Kimbrell said.

"If we increase our fees, and they (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) increase their percentage, then we’re more in line with collecting more revenue from Medicare/Medicaid," Kimbrell said. "If we raise the fees up 10 percent, then we’re getting all the money we can from Medicare and Medicaid."

Some were concerned that the fee increases could be a burden on taxpayers.

"It’s just going to cost the taxpayer more money," said Commissioner Steve Gailey, who compared the higher fees to a back door tax increase. "We just got to do a better job with our budget. We can’t put it back to the taxpayer."

But Kimbrell said most of the cost would be absorbed by insurance and Medicare or Medicaid.

"Those people that are on Medicare/Medicaid, we can’t bill the remainder. So the elderly, it’s not going to affect them who are on Medicare/Medicaid," Kimbrell said.

Commissioner Bobby Banks said he thought the increases would be a positive change.

"We haven’t had an increase since 2002," Banks said. "Most insurance companies pay it anyway."

The fee increases could become effective as early as Sept. 1.

A normal emergency call for service, referred to as ALS 1, which stands for Advanced Life Support Level 1, is currently $350. That call soon could be $400, increasing by 12.5 percent.

Other services also will increase anywhere from 11 percent to 13 percent.

"If we stay at our current rate, we’re leaving money on the table. Because we’re not charging all that we could for them to reimburse it," Kimbrell said. "We’re still below the surrounding counties."