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Supes Decide to Pass Along Cost of Paramedics to Residents who Call for Them

The Orange County Fire Authority's fee amounts to about $300 for a resident requiring "advanced-level life support," which includes an ambulance and a paramedic.

Paramedics work on a person injured in an accident earlier this month. Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo.
Paramedics work on a person injured in an accident earlier this month. Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo.

The Board of Supervisors today gave the Orange County Fire Authority the go-ahead to pass along expenses for paramedic services to residents who call for an ambulance.

The board vote was 3-2, with Chairman Shawn Nelson and Supervisor John Moorlach casting the dissenting votes.

The Orange County Fire Authority's fee amounts to about $300 for a resident requiring "advanced-level life support," which includes an ambulance and a paramedic. The fee is included in the bill residents get for ambulance service.

Nelson and Moorlach favored another plan that would compel firefighters to collect the fee on their own.

Supervisor Patricia Bates said the plan backed by Nelson and Moorlach would generate "a burden of paperwork," which could boost administrative fees.

Nelson and Moorlach said the fee amounts to "double taxation" since the fire authority receives property taxes that should cover the cost of ambulance service.

"You're paying these (paramedics) the same whether they go on a run or not, so why charge a taxpayer for their time?," Moorlach said after today's board meeting.

"Is it really a justified fee? Therefore, if you want to charge for it then charge it separately," Moorlach said. "The whole (funding) model needs to be reevaluated, but you've got a firefighters union that's resistant to making any changes."

According to Nelson, firefighters don't usually spend much time battling blazes these days. Mostly, they are responding to medical calls and traffic crashes, the chairman said.

Authority officials compare the fee to the extra charges that come with specialized services such as from a planning department in some cities. The fee covers the ongoing costs of training and certifying the authority's paramedics, said Lori Zeller, the OCFA's assistant chief of business services.

One issue that remains unresolved is a proposal to reduce the number of contracts for ambulance service from 19 to five. The supervisors will likely decide that issue in April, Zeller said.

Nineteen cities in the county contract with the OCFA for ambulance service, but officials want to reduce the number of contracts to five and have the service handled regionally instead of city-by-city. They say it will drive down costs.

The OCFA's contracts with ambulance companies expire Aug. 31, Zeller said. A request-for-proposal process takes about four weeks, but officials want enough time to handle appeals and in some cases a transition period if a new company wins a bid, Zeller said.

Ambulance service in the county costs residents less than most other counties throughout the state, officials said.

The most expensive last year was in Butte County, where residents are charged $2,399 for advanced-level service. Orange County charges $1,096.82. Fresno's rate is the cheapest at $913.88.

--City News Service


Alan Arnold March 27, 2014 at 12:04 PM
It's amazing that our government finds the money to pay for all kinds of pet projects, but the core services required to run Our society, which I believe taxes were set up to pay for, we now have to pay for special fees!
Donna Fleming March 27, 2014 at 01:31 PM
The Orange County Supervisors have made a bad decision to begin charging for 911 calls. It sends a message. Dialing 911 when in pain could result in a huge bill. Maybe those pains will go away? We pay over the top tazes in Orange County and these services are supposed to be covered. This is morally wrong on so many levels.
Ratón De Las Olas March 27, 2014 at 05:42 PM
If you're going to charge anyway, then let's privatize and allow competition to the most cost-effective service to use (the victim has no choice in "purchasing" the services, so you are involuntarily sticking him with an inflated bill). I'm really not suggesting privatizing, but this double-charging is ridiculous. Why do they roll an engine PLUS the paramedic/ambulance to every minor or individual health call? You need a doctor, or to go to the hospital, send ONE paramedic/ambulance and that's it. The rest seems to be a ploy to gin up the numbers to get justification for the budget. Also, WHY ARE WE PAYING $234,000 PER YEAR average compensation as Dr. Zillman posted (http://unionwatch.org/the-average-orange-county-firefighters-total-compensation-is-234000-per-year)? There are always WAY more applicants than positions so they don't need this to generate demand. So let's halve the total comp (more at the higher ends and obese pensions) and we will still have more than enough qualified applicants to fill the ranks. And, let's also provide productive work during wait times (I had a friend who worked at a station where during all the wait times, everyone had their own moneymaking gig, like rebuilding engines, etc.). There must be a lot of valuable services needed by the community that could be done during wait times.
Shripathi Kamath March 27, 2014 at 06:15 PM
Donna Fleming March 27, 2014 at 01:31 PM The Orange County Supervisors have made a bad decision to begin charging for 911 calls. ___________________________________________________ Thanks, Obama.
Shripathi Kamath March 27, 2014 at 06:42 PM
Ratón De Las Olas March 27, 2014 at 05:42 PM If you're going to charge anyway, then let's privatize and allow competition to the most cost-effective service to use (the victim has no choice in "purchasing" the services, so you are involuntarily sticking him with an inflated bill). I'm really not suggesting privatizing, but this double-charging is ridiculous. ___________________________________________________ You can simply argue that we are paying too much in taxes as it is and that this should be covered by those taxes. That is fine, but then it is just an argument that taxes are too high. Unrelated to this. Your basic choices were a. Raise the taxes for everyone just a little to cover the extra cost of providing this service over previous years., b. Assess a separate fee for this service (or a variation like whatever Moorlach proposed) so that only those who avail it pay, or c. Don't pay them any more money, hell with their whining about increased costs. ___________________________________________________ Of course, c. would have been preferable, right? I mean why pay more for the same service you had previously? In fact, they should be making less not more, because a website says that they are making x amount and x is obviously too much. (common sense?). But leaving that aside (since that would require back up measures in place already if there were a strike), between a. and b.—and some may not understand what "between a. and b." means—why is b. intrinsically worse? ___________________________________________________ As to the other scheme "So let's halve the total comp (more at the higher ends and obese pensions) and we will still have more than enough qualified applicants to fill the ranks. And, let's also provide productive work during wait times (I had a friend who worked at a station where during all the wait times, everyone had their own moneymaking gig, like rebuilding engines, etc.). There must be a lot of valuable services needed by the community that could be done during wait times." ___________________________________________________ This is something I suggest best done by voting for the right candidate. I mean who would not love a candidate who will do exactly that. Assuming of course he or she and her colleagues do not rack up costly legal fees breaking existing contracts, lose the service and hope that the theory actually works where you do get just as qualified candidates for half the price with no chance of advancement since if they get more expensive, like ask for raises, another halving is in the cards. Why? Because lots of great applicants exist for that job and experienced or not, they can all do that same job. Out with the old, in with the new. ___________________________________________________ Speaking of idle time being used for community services, should we do this for police and sheriff services as well? They too can, between catching criminals, perhaps pick up my laundry?

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