You don’t have to suffer from anti-fee fever to oppose a Bend plan to raise fees on the sick and injured. It’s a bad idea.
A proposed fee increase scheduled for the City Council’s meeting next week would increase the cost of an ambulance ride in the city of Bend. For instance, the base rate for a basic life support ambulance trip may go from $830 to about $873. The base rate for an advanced life support trip may go from $928 to $1,037. Rates for people living outside the Bend fire district would go up even more, nearly doubling.
The city didn’t pull those increases out of thin air. To its credit, it hired a consultant to determine the actual costs. But the city should not stick the sick and injured with bigger bills.
What are the reasons to increase ambulance costs?
One is that other cities are doing the same thing. That’s never much of a reason to do anything.
A second reason is that the increases do accurately reflect actual costs. That’s better.
And a third reason is that many people will not directly feel the increases because they will be covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. That’s bogus because the money to pay for the increase has to come from somewhere.
When an ambulance arrives, many people don’t have much of a choice but to take it. They may have been in an accident. Or they may have suffered a sudden acute illness. Is it right to charge people for that?
And if people do have the choice to call an ambulance, increasing fees could very well lead to some sick and injured declining help.
The Bend police don’t turn around and send people an invoice for investigating a burglary at a home. Bend firefighters don’t send people a bill for putting out a fire. Deschutes County Search and Rescue doesn’t charge hikers for rescuing them from the South Sister.
That’s because those services are part of public safety that the community underwrites through general taxes. Everyone benefits by living in a more secure community. It’s silly not to think of ambulance service in the same way.
If Bend needs more money for ambulance service, the city should ask voters for it, instead of jacking up user fees on the sick and injured.