Greene County EMS will soon begin charging a new fee for non-emergency calls.
The county EMS Board recently voted in favor of charging a $50 patient response fee for calls that don’t require a medical transport. They also voted to raise the existing fee for diabetic responses from $75 to $100.
Melanie Bowman, a consultant with Home Instead Senior Care, said cost can be a barrier for elderly people in need of in-home support services.
“Unfortunately in-home services are not covered by Medicare,” Bowman said. “Most times when they’re calling the ambulance service it’s because they have no one else to turn to and that’s where we can come in.”
Greene County EMS Director Calvin Hawkins said his agency receives non-emergency calls from this population daily.
“Those calls are increasing more and more each day,” said Hawkins. “We’re having to tie up an ambulance to pick someone up off the floor and put them back in a bed or back in a chair.”
Hawkins said they can only bill insurance for calls that result in the patient being transported to a hospital.
“It just became very apparent to me that with the limited resources that we have to answer true emergency calls that we need to place some type of premium on utilizing those services,” said Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison.
Morrison said the county recently funded three new ambulances, which cost about $190 thousand each, and two new employees to try and improve emergency response times.
He said it’s not uncommon for patients to wait hours at local hospitals to be transferred to a higher level of care.
“With the growing pains, for lack of a better term, that we’re having with Ballad and in our medical community I think it’s fair to say those resources are strained from time to time,” Morrison said.
He said some neighboring counties also charge a fee for non-emergency calls.
Hawkins said patients with financial restraints can set up a payment plan with the county so they can pay the bill over time.
The new charge takes effect on August 1st.