Billing for ambulance transport is unfair

This year, Vashon Island Fire Rescue (VIFR) got a gift from island taxpayers. A voter-approved $2.1 million annual increase in islanders’VIFR fire levy property taxes. Added to VIFR’s existing fire levy of $2.3 million annually. A voter-approved VIFR fire tax levy that almostdoubled, now set at the maximum allowed by state law.

How do your VIFR fire commissioners say thank you? By billing islanders, for the first time ever, to use their fully tax-funded VIFR basiclife support (BLS) ambulances. VIFR BLS ambulances that are paid for with the VIFR fire levy and King County EMS levy money ($200,000a year) as well.

Besides unnecessary, this new BLS ambulance billing of islanders is not fair. Islanders with poor insurance, or no insurance, are on thehook for the full bill. And now, VIFR offers installment plans for paying your VIFR BLS ambulance bill. Or you can pay your bill with yourcredit or debit card. And a VIFR ambulance bill can run to $1,000 plus easily, with a $700 fee and a $15 per mile charge.

Island Medicaid patients can’t be billed at all, and Medicaid pays poorly on emergency BLS ambulance. And when I asked if VIFR wasready to send islanders to collections over unpaid bills, I was told that no one would be turned over to collections for bad debt. Whichisn’t fair to the island taxpayers, who are paying their VIFR ambulance bill.

VIFR ambulance billing is unnecessary and an unfair financial drain on island families and the island economy.

VIFR needs to get back to its roots, as a tax-funded fire rescue public service, where no one gets a bill for a VIFR response to any islandemergency.

Attend the Nov. 28 fire board meeting or contact your VIFR fire commissioners.

— John Simonds

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