CAPE ELIZABETH — The town’s rescue fees increased this week for the first time in five years.
New fees went into effect March 30, after being unanimously approved by the Town Council on March 9. The new fee structure charges by the level of support administered to a patient, rather than by the individual device used to treat them.
Basic life support charges have increased from $400 to $600, and advanced life support charges have increased from $500 to $900. ASL 2, when a transport requires two paramedics instead of one, now cost $900 instead of $700.
The mileage rate per loaded mile for patients being transported in an ambulance has increased, too, from $10 per mile to $14.
Charges for intravenous drug administration, oxygen, cardiac monitors, automatic defibrillators, and endotracheal tubes have been factored into the increases and no longer have separate charges.
Patients will only receive flat, non-itemized bills. “It makes it a cleaner billing system,” Fire Chief Peter Gleeson said.
Gleeson said the new system makes it easier for the Fire Department to understand where its revenue comes from.
“The flat rate would make it easier to project revenue, as we can track whether a call was an advanced or basic transport. … Under our current billing method we would have to review each call to see what services we provided,” Gleeson said in a memo to Town Manager Mike McGovern.
Under the new system, Gleason said he expects annual billable revenue of $468,000.
But the department’s collection rate is 75 percent, because not everyone pays the rescue fee. Gleeson said non-residents will often not pay, and after three attempts to contact a person, the department usually stops.
So actual revenue is estimated at about $350,000.
“Our collection rate is really pretty good,” compared to other Maine communities, the chief said.
With the department’s budget for next year projected at $340,000, an increase of 24 percent from this year, Gleeson said bringing in $350,000 represents a break-even point.
For the coming year, Gleeson projected there will be 350 BLS calls and 250 ALS calls. He said with six people handling 50 percent of the calls, the increased revenue would be used to hire more per-diem staffers.
“Right now we’re currently relying on a handful of people to handle the bulk of our calls,” Gleeson said. “We’re a little concerned about burning those people out and wearing them out.”