Houston's fire chief asks for fee increase for ambulance service

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The Houston Fire Department is proposing significant fee increases to the public for emergency services wherein emergency medical technicians, paramedics and/or ambulances respond.

Chief Sam Pena announced his proposed changes Friday and said fees charged to the public had not kept pace with increasing costs.

"We have not even been recouping what it costs to make the call. The charge hasn't risen since 2012," Pena said.

Pena said the city of Houston also has a very difficult time collecting payments from the uninsured or self-insured people who use the city's emergency services.

"We collect about 35 to 37 percent of what we bill, so the taxpayer is subsidizing over 43 percent of every call," Pena said.

Pena said while raising prices for services will not fix that problem, it will allow recouping a greater percentage of costs overall.

Private insurance companies and Medicare, for the most part, do pay bills, Pena said.

The City Council will have to sign off on the fee increases.

If that happens, expect the fee to increase before the end of the calendar year.

Schedule of fee increases:

Lift assistant/no transport (help moving someone to a more comfortable location):

  • Now - $0
  • Proposed - $175

Patient dies/no transport:

  • Now - $0
  • Proposed - $375

Standard ambulance transport:

  • Now: $1,104.65
  • Proposed: $1,876.40

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