Arlington Heights increases ambulance fee, but only nonresidents pay

Arlington Heights will increase its ambulance transport fee by 275 percent, though officials say only uninsured nonresidents who use an ambulance while in town would actually have to pay the higher fees.

As of Nov. 1, the village will charge $1,500 per transport and add a charge of $12 per mile - though deductibles, co-payments, mileage or other associated costs for village residents would be waived under a plan approved by the village board this week.

That means a nonresident who isn't covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid would have to pay the fee, though Deputy Fire Chief Bernie Lyons said the village would take a "compassionate approach" to the collection of fees.

Officials say patients who claim a hardship would be directed to the village's emergency assistance program. Those who provide a hardship letter from their hospital could get a write-off, as is currently the case with homeless patients.

"No patient will be sent to collection services without their situation being thoroughly reviewed by our staff," Lyons said.

Arlington Heights now charges $400 to $450 to residents and $600 to $650 to nonresidents for ambulance transports - rates that have remained unchanged for 11 years.

But officials say they're looking to fill a $900,000 budget gap caused by state cuts to the village's share of income and sales tax revenues. They say the cost of providing emergency medical services also has risen, as has demand from residents.

The fee hike would add $960,000 to the $1.7 million the village already collects in transport fees.

Trustee Tom Glasgow was the lone village board member to vote against the fee increase this week.

"We subsidize the parking garage, health clinic, police and chamber of commerce. If we can subsidize those things, we can subsidize this as well," Glasgow said. "To raise it for people who truly can't afford it, I have an ethical problem with that."

Trustee Jim Tinaglia said the fee increase wouldn't impact village residents, and without the additional revenue, he feared it could lead to a property tax increase or reduction in services to residents.

"I'm more concerned with my neighbors I'm elected to represent than I am for someone who is visiting from out of town and not paying our tax bills on a regular basis," Tinaglia said. "I'm not interested in subsidizing this extra cost on the backs of 75,000 residents."

Andres Medical Billing, the village's billing contractor, reports its clients charge $350 to $2,600 per transport. Naperville recently raised its fee to $1,800, and Elgin is considering doing the same.

Private ambulance services on average cost $2,000 per transport.

Tom Glasgow
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