Ambulance and emergency medical rates to increase by 25 percent by 2018

In this photo from Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, members of a Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical crew load a cyclist into an ambulance.

Rates for ambulance and emergency medical services will increase gradually over the next three years after a decision by Douglas County commissioners at their Wednesday meeting.

By Jan. 1, 2018, an overall increase of 25 percent from current rates is planned. Beginning Jan. 1 of next year, rates will increase by 15 percent, followed by an increase to 20 percent over current rates on Jan. 1, 2017.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug said the rates are generally revisited annually, occasionally skipping a couple of years. He said about half the cost of the medical portion of the department is financed through reimbursements from insurance and costs paid by patients; the other half comes from property taxes.

“We’ve always tried to adjust the ambulance charges that would enable us to leverage as many Medicaid and Medicare dollars as possible,” Weinaug said. “… The extent to which we can leverage as many federal dollars as possible, and appropriate ambulance charges consistent with what other people charge, it minimizes the amount we have to put on the mill levy.”

In a memo to the county, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Chief Mark Bradford said the department has seen a 23.5 percent increase in EMS calls since 2008.

Weinaug said he may need to draft an official resolution for the commission’s next consent agenda to formally approve the rate increases, but commissioners authorized him to do so on Wednesday.