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Ambulance costs could increase in current budget cycle

Alexandria Fire Department ambulance. (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Currently Alexandrians pay a little less than their neighbors for ambulance trips, but that could change after in this year’s budget.

The Alexandria City Council is considering a fee adjustment for ambulance billing that would raise prices to mostly be in line with Arlington and Fairfax County.

Currently, basic life support is $600, but that could climb to $750 to match Fairfax County and Arlington County.

Advanced life support (ALS) is broken into level 1 and level 2, with the latter requiring additional levels of medical treatment. ALS1 could rise from $780 to $1,000 — slightly higher than Fairfax County rates but equal to Arlington County. ALS2, meanwhile, could rise from $900 to $1,200, slightly higher than Fairfax County ($1,175) or Arlington County ($1,000).

Ambulance billing fee adjustment (image via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria also charges $12 per mile, but that could increase to $18 — equal to Fairfax but more expensive than Arlington’s $15 per mile.

The fees were last increased in July 2021 and the proposed budget says the change is estimated to bring in $1.1 million in additional revenue.

Mayor Justin Wilson said the increase was proposed back in 2019 but was shelved when Covid hit.

“I’m surprised we got as far behind as we did,” Wilson said at a work session. “I think what’s notable about this is about one-third is self-pay and two-thirds come from insurance, either Medicare/Medicaid or private insurance. In a lot of ways just billing public or private insurance providers.”

City staff also noted that three unpaid bill notices are sent in the mail but, if the ambulance bill is not paid, the account is written off — the Alexandria Fire Department does not send unpaid ambulance bills to debt collection for further action.

Wilson suggested that, in future budgets, ambulance cost reviews be put on a set schedule.

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