Prince William County will begin charging fees for emergency medical services Friday in an effort to bring more revenue into the county.
“This is common practice not only in the commonwealth but across the nation,” Prince William Fire and Rescue Chief Kevin McGee said. By doing this, “We will not deviate from providing the best care to patients. ... Patient care will always be first and foremost, and nobody will be denied service.”
The county will bill Medicaid, Medicare and insurance companies for ambulance runs in Prince William. A waiver policy is in place for people who are uninsured, and the county will cover any co-payments required by insurance companies. Non-county residents will be responsible for the co-pays, McGee said.
The fees will be $400 for a basic life support emergency and $500 to $700 for an advanced life support emergency, county officials said. A $10 per loaded mile fee will also be charged.
In fiscal 2010, the Prince William Fire and Rescue Department responded to 55,123 EMS incidents and transported almost 17,000 people to hospitals, county officials said. The fees are expected to generate $3.1 million in fiscal 2012.
Supervisors first brought up ambulance fees more than a decade ago, but after months of discussion, they scrapped the idea and directed county staff members not to raise the issue again unless the board requested it. About two years ago, the issue resurfaced when supervisors wanted to raise funds for a county strapped for cash.
Supervisors approved the fees in July 2010, but not before conducting a $60,000 study that looked at the impact they would have on both the county’s budget and residents.
The fee program will not hurt people’s pockets but will generate revenue the county has missed out on for decades, since medical transport services are included in insurance premium calculations, county officials said.
Prince William is one of the last Northern Virginia jurisdictions to implement the fees. Fairfax and Arlington counties, Manassas Park and the cities of Alexandria, Manassas and Fairfax already have a fee program, county officials said.
The money Prince William County will collect from the fees will go directly back to the fire and rescue system. Fire officials plan to add a new daytime career transport unit and a 24-hour career medic unit. Today, it is mostly volunteers who staff the units at night.
The county also plans to open a new fire station — Bacon Race — at Prince William Parkway and Davis Ford Road in the next few years.