If you’re wondering just how cash-strapped the state of California is, look no further than the city of Folsom. Starting Monday, the city’s fire department will begin charging $225 for anyone needing a paramedic, CBS Sacramento reports. And they aren’t the first ones to do so.
The Folsom Fire Department is just the latest to charge fees for its medical aid. Sacramento Metro Fire currently charges $275 for medial aid and Sacramento City Fire requires a $96 fee if someone is transported to the hospital.
“We gotta find money from somewhere so it’s going to be from people like you and me,” one resident said.
Residents already pay for city services through taxes. The tax revenue goes to local police stations, fire departments and emergency services. The new fees will be on top of those taxes to help pay for gas, supplies and paramedic personnel when the fire department responds to an emergency call, according to officials.
“The real issue is how do we provide the essential services the community is seeking from us?” Folsom Fire Chief Ron Phillips said.
It is obvious that people might be more hesitant to call 911 for care if they know they are going to be charged for doing so. Phillips said he understands that, but that won’t stop the policy from going into effect on Monday.
“They’re constantly weighing out whether they should call 911,” he said. “And we really encourage people to call 911. Don’t let that weigh into this discussion.”
Folsom’s budget deficits have caused the city to lay off fire fighters for four consecutive years, going from 80 fire fighters to just 54. City Council approved the new fees unanimously.
The city of Folsom released the following statement on Tuesday:
Beginning July 15, the Folsom Fire Department will charge a $225 fee to help defray the cost of providing emergency care by highly trained paramedics on fire engine and truck companies. The City Council adopted the fee schedule at its June 26 meeting.
“The Fire Department provides Emergency Medical Service (EMS) for sick and injured patients that represents the highest level of pre-hospital care provided by non-physicians,” says Fire Chief Ron Phillips. “The first responders are typically on scene and caring for patients prior to the arrival of a public or private ambulance.
Philips notes that local taxes cover the capability of having fire and paramedic services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The new fee will cover direct costs associated with the response to EMS incidents by our engine and ladder truck companies,” says Chief Phillips. “It makes sense that the cost for supplies and treatment should be borne by the patients who use the first responder service, rather than subsidized by the community as a whole.”
The fee will be charged whenever a person is medically evaluated and treated by paramedics on a first responder unit. It will not be charged if an individual declines medical evaluation or treatment by paramedics.
Chief Phillips says that many regional fire agencies have charged first responder fees for years and that Folsom’s new fee schedule is less than the fees charged by many others. Ninety percent of the patients treated by first responders in Folsom are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medical
CBS Sacramento reports Folsom fire paramedics respond to about 3,500 calls for service a year and anticipate collecting around $250,000 from paramedic fees during the next fiscal year.
Still, some residents are skeptical the policy will help.
“I believe that those who’ve paid their taxes all these years will end up paying for those don’t, just like we do now,” Folsom resident Judy Lowder said.