Fire department to charge $100 for medical calls not requiring transport

By Alene Tchekmedyian
Burbank Leader

BURBANK, Calif. — The Burbank Fire Department in July will begin charging $100 for its response to emergency medical calls that don’t include transporting someone to the hospital, which officials said is a way to recover personnel costs.

The paramedic-assessment fee was approved by the Burbank City Council this week as part of the fiscal year 2014-15 budget.

“This is just a cost-recovery program for the General Fund — something that’s being done up and down California,” said Burbank Fire Chief Tom Lenahan, adding that neighboring cities such as Glendale and Pasadena have similar fees.

The department responds to roughly 7,800 emergency medical calls a year, Lenahan said.

Roughly 60% of the calls include transporting someone to the hospital, the fees for which range from $1,100 to $1,500. But for calls that don’t require transportation to the hospital, he added, there’s still a cost to the department.

The fee, which insurance companies will generally cover, was derived by calculating personnel costs for a typical response, which generally lasts 20 minutes and includes a fire captain, engineer, two firefighters and two paramedics, Lenahan said.

Burbank residents can skirt the per-response fees by enrolling in the department’s Emergency Medical Service Membership program, which costs $48 a year. Under the program, all permanent residents in the subscribing household can avoid out-of-pocket expenses for hospital transport and paramedic response.

Officials said the program is beneficial for those with high insurance deductibles, a chronic medical condition or for those without medical insurance.

Roughly 5,000 households are currently signed up, a number that’s grown by 700 in the last couple months through community outreach, Lenahan said.

“If you’re a subscription member, you wouldn’t have any out-of-pocket costs,” Lenahan said. “It’s the ride of your life and it’s worth having that little bit of insurance that you’re not going to get any bill for it.”

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