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.
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.
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.