Cost Recovery Debate: ECCFPD to Discuss Billing Non-Residents for Services

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The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District will discuss the idea of sending a bill for services to the insurance company of non-residents should they be found at fault of causing an accident if District services were utilized.

According to the staff report, the fees for a vehicle accident could range from a basic one engine response of $435.00 to a vehicle accident with extrication and a medical helicopter/multi-engine response of $2,200.00 as a form of “cost recovery”.

With a District budget of roughly $12 million (including SAFER Grant), this policy would generate an estimated $100,000 for the District.

Omitted from the report is which other local agencies currently utilize a similar policy—for example, CONFIRE does not charge. Instead, the staff report states this option is being used by 50+ fire agencies throughout California who are billing non-residents of the District for services.

For example,  if you are an Antioch resident who is traveling to the Streets of Brentwood to shop and you cause a car accident, you could then get billed. If the reverse was true where a Brentwood resident was traveling to Antioch and they cause an accident they would not be billed.  This type of policy could really effect commuters who travel through the District daily.

Looking at this policy with the glass half-full, at least its not as bad as South Lake Tahoe Fire who charges a fee to anyone who dials 9-1-1 for service.

Here is the full staff report on tonight’s topic.

Discuss cost recovery billing for certain District services and provide direction to staff.

PREVIOUS ACTION

At the October 4, 2010 Board meeting, after reviewing and discussing billing for certain District services, the Board of Directors decided not to move forward with this project.

SUBJECT BACKGROUND

At the September 9, 2013 board meeting, Director Johansen requested that cost recovery billing be brought back before the board for discussion. Staff has been researching additional revenue sources for the District. One option currently being used today by 50+ fire agencies throughout California is billing non-residents of the District for services, typically associated with auto related incidents. The services are billed to the insurance company of the non-residents if they are at fault of causing the accident and if District services were utilized. The fees for a vehicle accident could range from basic one engine response of $435.00 to a vehicle accident with extrication and a medical helicopter/multi-engine response of $2,200.00. The fees for services are not limited to vehicle accidents; other agencies are charging for vehicle fires, hazard material incidents, boating accidents, and other special rescues.

There are several thoughts on the fees schedule; most agencies are using the national fee schedule set by insurance companies with 80 percent recovery rate and others are going through a fee study of the their agency’s costs. However, some insurance companies are not as willing to accept those fees. The estimated annual revenue using the national fee schedule for the District is currently estimated to be $100,000 based upon the service calls in 2012.

The cost recovery billing services would not have any out of pocket costs to the District if we use the national fee schedule and would not require any additional personnel. The data for emergency responses would be transferred to the Cost Recovery Company, they would bill the at-fault non-resident and their fee would be up to 20 percent of the collected fee. The District would receive a monthly check of the fees recovered.

There has been some negative public reaction for billing service of non-residents on some high profile incidents. Negative press coverage has focused primarily on billing issues to families and/or individuals after agencies responded to an incident in which the bills parties’ family member has died. Billing the surviving family member has been portrayed as callous and inconsiderate.

Staff recommends that if the District were to pursue a program like this that no discretion be provided in whether or not to charge a non-resident for services as this could undermine the program’s success.

If the Board directed staff to consider cost recovery options further at this time we will need to bring the service agreement and also establish a fee schedule in December of this year to implement the full program by March 2014.

Source:
http://www.eccfpd.org/assets/documents/BoardPacketOctober72013_000.pdf

14 COMMENTS

  1. This is BS! The department ALREADY has a PR problem. This would make it worse and doom any chance of a future revenue enhancement passed by the voters. Stupid idea.

  2. How about cutting the useless middle management of the fire department. So many chiefs that aren’t needed. Also the huge pension plans. The fire unions have you people wrapped around their finger.

    • WHAT useless middle management? ECCFPD has three Batallion Chiefs. Each leads one shift, sleeps in quarters when that shift is on duty, and is actively involved in fire suppression and rescue like any other firefighter. In multi-engine fire situations, the Batallion Chief often makes adjustments on the fly to ensure the rest of the district has adequate coverage. Each one also takes on some administrative responsibilities (such as coordinating training) which are indicated on the ECCFPD website.

      For example, in medical helicopter situations, it is often the Batallion Chief that serves as helispot manager so that a Captain and an engine company are not tied up. In the early stages of a structure fire response, the Batallion Chief may provide the fourth firefighter so that the first arriving engine can meet the 2-in 2 out requirement for safety.

      As for pensions, this Board has recently concluded a Labor Agreement with Local 1230 which lowers pensions for new firefighters to the level set by recent legislation. We are legally hamstrung–even with willingness on the part of our firefighters–from lowering pensions for employees hired before 1/1/2013. Yes, the old pension levels were set unsustainably high, before there even was a local Board.

  3. What a terrible idea and all this for just $100k and that is IF people’s insurance paid 100%. The board has bigger things to worry about than trying to cheat taxpayers from other districts out of money. Accidents happen, that is why we all pay taxes to one distict or another.

  4. Those under ECCFPD services should support this as they will get the benefit from extra money. Out of towners should get charged if they use our services

    • Living 16 years in East Cat, I think the charge is acceptable… EVEN THOUGH I MOVED OUT TO SACRAMENTO. If god forbid I come down to visit family there and get smacked like I have been in the past… I WANT THE GOOD TEAM WE HAVE IN EAST CAT COMING TO MY RESCUE ANYDAY AND IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY WILL PAY IT , EVEN A PORTION OF IT HOT DAMN!! I AM WITH YOU VOTER 23, ITS A GOOD IDEA.

  5. Here are the facts: if you are found liable for and accident , the insurance agency already factors in the cost of medial and fire personnel on scene. If the local fire agency’s choose not to recover those funds from the insurance companies then the insurance company pockets that extra money. Therefore. Those responsible enough to have coverage are already paying for this fee. If East Coco voters would have approved the 1/2 tax increase for fire services we wouldn’t be closing stations and laying off fire personnel. Loss recovery is something that 40% of all fire departments nationwide have adopted since the recession began.. Why not East Con as well?

  6. I think we need to pass an anti greed proposition and all go back to the days when enough was enough and didn’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul. It’s getting so old.

  7. Where’s the money going that we now pay? Answer that question and the answer is obvious, no more BS taxes to cover cost for what we already pay for. Next thing you know we won’t be able to leave the county for fear of getting hurt in another county. Unless of course you are in the country illegally.

  8. Dan, your not done paying. The district is ten million in the hole and you my friend are responsible for a portion of it unless you sell and move out. Get ready to rob your wallet to pay your past due credit card that they charged without your permission. Then they will ask if you have any money or credit in another pocket so the can dig a bigger debt hole. If billing non residents for service helps fill that big hole they dug I’m for it.

    • GH,

      You sound like that nut job from Knightsen that has a 5th grade education when it comes to economics, emergency services and government comprehension. He is a dick.

      Don’t be a dick.

  9. Two words:

    Tone Deaf

    A PR disaster. 50 departments in Ca are doing it? You mean out of the 2100+?

    http://firedepartment.net/directory/california

    Not exactly a resounding endorsement for the idea. Seem to be forgetting that the district is currently enjoying a life line of funding that is supplied by the US taxpayers as a whole. So you are in essence giving the middle finger to those nice folks who bailed you out.

    If you think you are just giving a bill to an insurance company and it’s automatically covered; meaning no skin off the nose of the private party………think again:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/fire-department-bills-basic-services-horrify-residents-insurance/story?id=9736696&page=2

    Dumb idea. Opportunity cost here is a joke. The only people who will make out on this goofy idea is the billing company who will be invoking ECCFPD’s name in aggressive debt collection. You end up looking like the greedy bad guy when it’s all said and done.

    For less than 3% of your budget shortfall? Seriously?

  10. I view the services provided by the district in different ways.

    1) Fire protection and rescue services that were the primary focus of fire districts when the property taxes were implemented should be funded through the property tax revenue. This would include all non-medical calls including gas leaks and fires at homes, businesses, autos and fields, vegetation abatement and other preventative measures, and of course cats stuck in trees. This is by far the smaller area of service provided by the district but was the core of service provided when the property tax mechanism was developed.

    2) EMS – Emergency Medical Services (BLS and ALS) would more logically be paid by the patient without regard to “fault”. This model is already in place in Contra Costa County with regard to AMR (ambulance) and works quite well, allowing AMR to be a nearly self-sustaining service. In some cases the medical insurance providers bear the cost of these medical services that are provided, while in other cases the liability carrier (auto, property/liability/medpay) coverage or even the county in cases of the extremely poor or destitute would pay/reimburse based on industry accepted fee schedules.

    There is nothing “greedy” about expecting someone who uses the service to pay for it, especially when there is a revenue shortfall. While it may come as a surprise to someone who receives a bill from the fire district for providing life support services, I am confident the patient and family will understand the value of the lifesaving service. We are fortunate that the district has the trained personnel to provide excellent emergency medical services that can allow it to post strong financial results if they were to treat the patients in a fair and respectful manner similar to the way AMR treats its patients.

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