Medicare cuts prompt city to raise ambulance rates

In response to reduced payments from Medicare, Carson City is set to raise ambulance fees by 10 percent, bringing the base rate for a paramedic-staffed ride to the hospital to $770.

Carson City's Chief of Emergency Medical Services Vince Pirozzi said the city generally raises ambulance rates 5 percent to 10 percent a year, just as Medicare seems to reduce how much it's willing to pay every year.

The city's only ambulance service is part of the fire department, but it receives no tax dollars, relying instead completely on fees and charges. Reductions in Medicare payments hit the city service hard since about 60 percent of its business comes from Medicare patients.

"We're in the black now but this is going to put us in the red for sure if we don't get some relief," Pirozzi said.

Emergency medical organizations are lobbying Congress to do something about Medicare cutbacks but Pirozzi said it's unclear what's going to happen. For now, he's preparing for the worst, which would be the Medicare cuts sticking. If they do, it would mean an estimated loss of $310,000 to $450,000, or 10 percent to 15 percent of the city's EMS operating revenue.

The 10 percent fee hike, which city supervisors are scheduled to vote on Thursday, will raise collections by about 2 percent, Pirozzi estimates.

For residents wary of calling on a service that will cost a minimum of $770, there is another option.

Under a program called CC-Care, a local resident can pay $50, $75 for a family, and receive free, unlimited ambulance service for a year.

The program has lost money in the past, but now nearly 4,000 Carson City residents participate and there are enough people who end up not needing an ambulance to more than pay for those who do. CC-Care now turns a profit, Pirozzi said.

To sign up for the service, call Carson City's EMS division at 887-2389.

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at or 881-1217.

If you go

What: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

Where: Sierra Room of the Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.

When: 8:45 a.m. Thursday


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