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Ambulance Fees Rise in Gwinnett | News

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Ambulance Fees Rise in Gwinnett
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LAWRENCEVILLE, GA -- It's not a limousine, but a ride in the back of a Gwinnett County ambulance can be quite costly, and the price has gone up.

Following a vote of Gwinnett County commissioners, patients will now pay $975 for transport on one of the county's 23 ambulances. County residents were paying $750 a ride.

The move is an effort to keep up with the rising cost to staff and equip an ambulance.

"When we reviewed the market in the greater Atlanta area and the cost of making the transport, it just made sense to adjust the transport fee," said Gwinnett Fire Chief Bill Myers.

While insurance typically pays for most if not all of an ambulance fee, it's a concern for Angie Major. Her daughter has chronic asthma. Angie's insurance paid for ambulance rides before, but she lost her job and insurance.

"I don't know where extra $200 would come," Major said. "I don't want to jeopardize my daughter's health in any way, but it is something I have to say, wait a minute."

Like other Georgia counties, Gwinnett's Fire and Emergency Services is funded by a combination of tax dollars and user fees. Gwinnett's Fire Chief says charging a patient for emergency transport helps offset property taxes.

"If not for the transport fee or user fee, the property tax that it takes to pay for a complete fire and emergency service would be more," Chief Myers said.

Gwinnett County has charged $750 for an ambulance ride, plus $15 a mile, since January of 2009. According to the county, the cost to staff and fill an ambulance with equipment and medication has grown since then to $942 each time an ambulance transports a patient.

"We're charging $975 because we don't want to come back in six months or 12 months and ask for another increase," Chief Myers said.

Gwinnett's survey of the area found ambulance transport fees in Metro Atlanta range from a low of $600 per trip to as much as $1,650.

A spokesman for Georgia's insurance commissioner says a majority of the major insurance companies pay for most if not all of an ambulance fee. Gwinnett's fire chief says only a small percentage of people they transport lack insurance.

Gwinnett County ambulances made more than 31,000 emergency medical transports last year.

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