BEND, Ore. - It's been 12 years since ambulance transport fees were raised in Bend, and the Bend Fire Department says in order to continue the trend of good service, it's time for a hike.
Currently, the cost of getting into an ambulance in Bend is $986. Then there's a mileage fee -- that's about $13 per mile.
According to Bend Fire, these rates are actually on the low end for similar services in the area.
"If you go either north or south of us, it's twice or more than twice that amount, so we're really below what we should be." Deputy Chief Steve O'Malley said Thursday..
For reference, La Pine charges $2,013 plus $20 per mile, and Eugene is at about $1,800 per transport.
The Bend Fire Department recently hired a consultant to conduct a study looking at all the costs associated with emergency medical services.
Current city ordinances don't allow the department to charge residents more than 50 percent of ambulance fees.
The study found the average cost per transport is $2,594, meaning if this increase gets approved, Bend residents would pay $1,297, an increase of just over $300.
As for non-Bend residents, if the city approves this proposal, they would pay the full amount. explained O'Malley.
"We want to charge the full cost of that to non residents, because everybody who is a resident is helping to pay for the safety net, the infrastructure that's there every day," he said. "The non-residents and our 20,000 visitors a day, they're not helping pay for that. So we also want to capture some of that as wel,l and have the help."
In Bend, 52 percent of the patient population are on Medicare, and 21 percent are on Medicaid. According to Bend Fire, only about 4 percent of Bend residents would feel the increase directly, because they would be paying out of pocket.
When I asked on Facebook if anyone was surprised by their ambulance fee, the response was immediate.
One person said, "My wife was taken less than 2 miles, and the bill was $1,300!"
Another said, "In fact, I've avoided calling a few times because of it."
But O'Malley said it's necessary, in order to keep saving lives with a high level of professional care,
"We try to get around 10 people to a cardiac arrest, and that's part of what enables us to give that level of service and have the results that we have," he said. "We just want to make sure we can continue to provide that level of service."
The fire department will put together a fee resolution for city council approval. The agency hopes to have the increase in place by July 1.