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Forest Park EMS fees going up to help balance budget

FOREST PARK — Fire Chief Eddie Buckholts doesn’t want to profit from medical transport calls, but he’d like the city to at least break even.

“Other fire departments around Atlanta have been charging quite a bit more,” Buckholts told members of council recently. “I’d like to see us get in line with them, not competition.”

Buckholts said the increasing cost of gas and diesel is crippling the department’s budget. Higher drug prices and some shortages are also impacting fees.

“From 2005 to now, the cost of fuel has more than doubled,” he said. “The cost of drugs has gone up and there’s a shortage for some, which means the costs will continue to go up.”

Mayor David Lockhart agreed with the request.

“Even with this increase, we’re still lower than metro Atlanta,” he said.

Buckholts said the majority of transported patients are covered under Medicare or Medicaid.

Only Councilman Dabouze Antoine voted against the increase, which also provides for two categories of Advanced Life Support services.

“Level One is basically oxygen and a heart monitor,” said Buckholts. “Level Two is for example, cardiac arrests where we empty the truck on the patient, use everything we have.”

Other patients get a Basic Life Support transport, which is essentially a ride to the hospital emergency room.

According to documentation provided to Clayton News Daily by Buckholts, Forest Park has charged $375 for Basic Life Support with a rate variance on average of $176.67 and $500 for Advanced Life Support with a rate variance of $108.67 for Level One and $194.33 for Level Two.

Medicaid reimburses the city $255.72 for basic transport and $303.67 for ALS I and ALS II. Medicare reimburses 80 percent. The city has been charging $7 for mileage.

Council approved an increase to $550 for basic transport, $600 for ALS I and $800 for ALS II. Mileage will go up to $12 but the $50 cost of using oxygen will remain steady.

By comparison, in 2012, Grady EMS charged a flat $1,800 with $14 for mileage; Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services charged $975 and $15 for mileage and Metro Atlanta EMS charged $750 and $12 for mileage.

National EMS charged $625 for basic transport, $650 for ALS I and $749 for ALS II, and $10.50 for mileage. DeKalb County Fire and Emergency Services charged $50 to treat and release, $500 for basic transport, $550 for ALS I and $650 for ALS II, and $7 for mileage.

Fayette County Fire Department charged $125 to treat and release, $500 for all other services and $7.50 for mileage. Henry County Fire and Emergency Services charged $500 for basic transport, $600 for ALS I and $725 for ALS II, and $10 for mileage.

Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services charged $120 to treat and release, $560 for basic transport, $670 for ALS I and $776 for ALS II, and $10 for mileage. Morrow Fire Department charged $56 to treat and release, $625 for basic transport, $682 for ALS I and $766 for ALS II, and $8.84 for mileage.

Antoine didn’t explain his dissenting vote.