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January 27, 2011

NJ ambulance service raising ambulance fees by 50 percent

By Michael Miller
Press of Atlantic City

UPPER TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Calling an ambulance is going to cost more this year in Upper Township.

The Township Committee is raising the price of an ambulance ride by 50 percent to $600 to keep the rates in line with neighboring communities. The township's Division of Emergency Services now bills patients $400. The township also will charge $10 per mile to subsidize the expense of staffing the Upper Township Rescue Squad 24 hours per day under the ordinance the township introduced Monday.

"It doesn't cover the cost but it offsets the cost," Mayor Richard Palombo said.

The move was designed to bring the fees in line with what other towns are charging, Committeeman Jay Newman said. Ocean City charges $500 per ambulance ride. Cape May added a mileage surcharge this year.

Lower Township charges about $700 per ambulance run, Councilman Tom Conrad said.

Nobody is getting rich off ambulance service. You have to staff and equip it," he said. "Comply with state and federal regulations, pay worker's compensation insurance. And emergency medical technicians have malpractice insurance."

The fee increase in Upper Township and elsewhere is driven by a growing desire in southern New Jersey to find ways other than property taxes to subsidize municipal expenses, Conrad said.

By charging this much and getting as much as they can from insurance companies, they're not passing those costs along to taxpayers," he said.

Lower Township averages 3,000 to 4,000 ambulance runs per year, Conrad said.

Upper Township, by comparison, has about 1,600, Rescue Squad Chief Jay Potter said.

Newman said most insurance policies cover the patient's costs.

"If we don't charge for the ride, who keeps the money? The insurance companies aren't going to give it back," he said.

Newman said the township arranges payment plans for the uninsured.

"That has happened on many occasions, but it's handled on a case-by-case basis," he said.

The committee scheduled a public hearing on the fee increase on Feb. 28 at Township Hall.

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