Code red

Code red

Council approves across-the-board hikes in emergency service fees

By André Coleman 02/06/2013

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People needing emergency care may want to think twice before calling the Pasadena Fire Department, which is raising rates for such services as advanced and basic life support transportation by more than 20 percent of current costs.


On Monday, the Pasadena City Council unanimously voted to increase general fees for paramedic billing. According to a city staff report prepared by Fire Chief Calvin Wells, advanced life support transportation services went from $1,169 to $1,412 per call, a 21 percent jump, while basic life support transportation services went from $819 to $1,010, a 23 percent increase.


For “Code 3,” or emergency transportation service, the city Fire Department will now charge $128, up from $111, a 15 percent hike. Even the cost of oxygen went up by 12 percent, from $57 to $64. All told, the fee increases will result in approximately $75,000 in additional revenue for the city in fiscal year 2014. 


The matter appeared on the council’s agenda under the “consent calendar,” where sometimes multiple major items are passed at the same time with a single vote of the council without much, if any, council discussion or public input.

The item was only questioned by Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, who was concerned that cost increases would hurt low-income residents. 


After Robinson had the item pulled for discussion, Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Costa explained the city’s fees for services had been lower than what the county of Los Angeles Fire Department was charging for similar services. 


“Our increases are based on recommendations from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services,” Costa said in a separate interview. “The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors pretty much has the authority over fees,” and every other year bases fee hikes on increases to the Consumer Price Index, CPI. In the following year, the board uses a survey of rates charged in other Southern California counties. 


After Costas’ presentation, the council, including Robinson, voted for the increases.


“We have to be careful about the impact increasing the fees will have on people who need the services most. But we do have to acknowledge costs are increasing and are being passed on to us,” Robinson said.  



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