News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 8, 2013

City Council discusses raising ambulance fees

Rates have not increased since 2009

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A ride in a city-owned ambulance may soon become significantly more expensive in Terre Haute.

At Thursday night’s “sunshine” meeting of the City Council, Fire Chief Jeff Fisher and Deputy Chief Leroy Stewart asked the council to vote next week for increases in the city’s ambulance fees.

The increases would boost total income from the fees from approximately $1.4 million to $1.5 or $1.6 million annually, Stewart told the nine-member council.

That would make the annual increase in revenue between 7 and 14 percent.

According to the ordinance to be voted Thursday night in City Hall, fees for specific services would increase from between 10 percent for “Advanced Life Support Level I” to 100 percent for non-transport medical calls. The additional fee for service for emergency calls outside the city limits would remain $100.

The council last increased ambulance fees in August of 2009.

The increases are necessary to keep up with significantly higher costs for ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency response equipment, said Norm Loudermilk, council president and an assistant chief on the Terre Haute Fire Department.

“Nothing is getting cheaper,” Loudermilk said. In the mid-1990s, an ambulance cost from $40,000- to $50,000, Loudermilk said. Today they cost about $180,000, he said.

The use of fees has also spared taxpayers the burden of paying for new fire trucks and other big capital expenses, Loudermilk said. The fire department has been able to replace ambulances and trucks using only money from the ambulance fees, he said.

In addition, 5 percent of ambulance fees are used to help fund the city’s Emergency Responder Training Academy.

“This is a sign of the times,” said Councilman Bob All, R-2nd, who introduced the fee ordinance. “I haven’t seen anything that’s unreasonable.”

The new fees will only affect people with private insurance and the means to pay, Stewart said. Those on Medicare or Medicaid will continue to pay rates fixed by those government insurance programs, he said. And fees are waved for people who can prove an inability to pay, he said.

According to a 2010 report in USA Today, ambulance providers nationwide are dealing with rising costs and Medicare reimbursements that do not cover those costs, placing a larger burden on those with private insurance.

n Also Thursday, the council discussed an ordinance put forward by Councilman Todd Nation, D-4th, to change Fourth Street between Cherry and Poplar streets into a two-way street.

If approved, the change would require removing the bike trail that was placed along Fourth Street in 2006. That trail, which includes posts and curbing, could be replaced by painted lines on the street, Nation said.

The “bare bones” cost of making the change would be $250,000, said Chuck Ennis, city engineer. However, Nation said he would not object to the change taking place late next year. The change would improve access into the downtown, giving it an economic development component, meaning funding sources normally used for economic development could be tapped, he said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or