Arlington Heights debates cost of ambulance rides

Published: 3/3/2009 12:07 AM

The very cheapest ambulance trip in Arlington Heights costs $400. The most expensive trip costs $650, village trustees were told on Monday.

An Arlington Heights resident questioned the ambulance fees at the Feb. 16 board meeting, so Village Manager Bill Dixon and Fire Chief Glenn Ericksen explained the fees at Monday's village board meeting. The costs are based on what Medicare charges and the last time they were raised was in 2006, Dixon said.

One trustee said the fees were too high, while another said they may not be high enough.

Trustee John Scaletta said it's not right to assume all residents have insurance to cover ambulance costs.

"It's a mistake to base our fees on what insurance charges," he said.

On the other hand, Trustee Norm Breyer said the village should take advantage of what insurance companies will cover - if the companies will pay for a $700 ambulance ride, maybe the village should charge that.

"If there is additional reimbursement out there, I'd hate to miss out on it," Breyer said.

Currently there are four ambulances that serve Arlington Heights, although nearby municipalities help when multiple calls roll in, Ericksen said.

The $400 fee is for Arlington Heights residents who only need basic first aid, Ericksen said. The $650 is for nonresidents who need more advanced care such as cardiac monitors and drug intervention, he said. The $400 to $650 fee doesn't cover the entire cost of an ambulance ride, which could run $1,050 per trip, Dixon said.

There are payment plans for people who can't afford to pay their ambulance bill all at one time, said Village President Arlene Mulder.

"These are user fees," she said. "It helps, but doesn't cover the entire cost."

Twenty or 30 years ago, Arlington Heights charged nothing for ambulance fees, Mulder added.

"However, people were using ambulances for transportation," she said.