EMS (Ambulance) Transport Fees

Why did we receive a bill for ambulance service? I thought East Pierce residents receive free ambulance service from the fire district?

East Pierce ambulance service is not actually free. However, if you are an East Pierce resident, who is transported by an East Pierce medic unit (ambulance), you should have no “out-of-pocket” expenses. We bill your insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid for the cost of the ambulance ride. Any additional costs, such as co-pays that you would normally need to pay, are “written off” against the funds received through our EMS Levy.

What happens for people who have no insurance or those who live outside the fire district?

If you’re a district resident and don’t have health insurance, your entire bill is covered. Non-residents, who happen to be in the district, when they are transported by medic unit to the hospital, are responsible for any co-pays or other costs not covered by their insurance.

Does East Pierce attempt to bill our insurance companies?

Yes. East Pierce will bill your insurance company, Medicare and Medicaid providers to recover payments for ambulance transport. To be included in the “no out-of-pocket” cost EMS transport program, residents must complete and return any required paperwork sent to you by our billing service, Systems Design, or any paperwork sent to you by your own insurance provider. Correct, updated information is crucial for our ability to successfully bill insurance providers.

If district residents don’t comply with requests for information, they could end up being liable for the entire amount of the ambulance transport fee, and even end up being turned over to a collection agency.

What happens to the revenues collected from medic unit patient transport fees?

More than $2.6 million in ambulance transport fees were collected last year from health insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid. These funds help cover a portion of the cost of providing EMS response and transport services to the community.

What happens if East Pierce doesn’t have any medic units available for a 9-1-1 medical call? Who comes, and do I have to pay the other ambulance provider?

East Pierce has four medic units available 24/7. We are able to handle more than 98% of the EMS transports with our own medic units. Last year we transported more than 5,500 patients to area hospitals.

However, approximately 100 times per year, when all of our medic units are all busy on other 9-1-1 medical or fire calls, we need to request “mutual aid” from neighboring fire departments and private ambulances. They send units in to back us up if we don’t have any available medic units.

We have reciprocal “mutual aid” transport agreements with most of our neighboring fire districts. If one of their medic units responds into our fire district and takes you to the emergency department, you receive the same “no out-of-pocket cost” ambulance service as if an East Pierce medic unit took you to the hospital. We reciprocate when we respond into their districts when they need mutual aid.

Does this agreement apply if I’m a district resident, but get hurt in some area outside the district, such as Puyallup or Spanaway?

The reciprocal “no out-of-pocket expense” mutual aid agreement only extends to 9-1-1 calls inside our own district. If you become ill or injured in a neighboring fire district, even if we have a mutual aid transport agreement, you will be responsible for the ambulance bill if they transport you to a hospital. There is no EMS levy “write-off” provision when you are outside the district and become ill or injured.

What happens if a private ambulance takes me to the hospital?

In addition to our “mutual aid” responses from other fire departments, private ambulances are used occasionally to transport district residents to the hospital. In this case, patients will receive a separate bill from the private ambulance company, and are responsible for any portion not covered by insurance. There is no mechanism to use the EMS Levy fund to cover any of those costs.

EMS Transport Bill Questions

If you have any questions about an EMS transport bill, please contact our billing company, Systems Design by phone at 1-800-238-9398 or via email at Info@SDWems.com. You can also contact East Pierce EMS Administrative Specialist Tricia Brown at 253-863-1800.

East Pierce HIPAA Privacy Notice

This notice describes how medical information about you may be used and disclosed and how you can get access to this information. Please review it carefully.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) passed in Federal Law in 1996 and provide the following standards:

  • Protects patient privacy
  • Safeguards patient information
  • Grants certain patient rights

As an essential part of our commitment to you, East Pierce Fire and Rescue maintains the privacy of your confidential health care information, known as Protected Health Information or PHI. We are required by law to protect your health care information and to provide you with the attached Notice of Privacy Practices.

The Notice outlines our legal duties and privacy practices with respect to your PHI. It not only describes our privacy practices and your legal rights, but lets you know, among other things, how we and our business associates are permitted to use and disclose PHI about you, how you can access and copy that information, how you may request amendment of that information, and how you may request restrictions on our use and disclosure of your PHI.

We are also required to abide by the terms of the version of this Notice currently in effect. In most situations we may use this information as described in this Notice without your permission, but there are some situations where we may use it only after we obtain your written authorization.

We respect your privacy, and treat all health care information about our patients with care under strict policies of confidentiality that all of our staff are committed to following at all times.

Click here to read the detailed notice.

If you have any questions, contact Asst. Chief Russ McCallion, our Privacy Officer, at 253-863-1800.

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