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Ambulance companies find different ways to deal with rising costs of providing services

Climbing fuel prices are driving up the costs of providing ambulance services, but two companies in the Syracuse area are finding different ways to deal with the increase.

TLC Medical Transportation Services Inc. and TLC Emergency Medical Services Inc. announced this week that they have increased rates for basic and advanced life support ambulance services for private pay customers, the result of skyrocketing diesel fuel costs that hovered around $4.25 a gallon last week, according to gasbuddy.com.

"It isn't something we wanted to do," said TLC President David J. Butler. "But we must earn a living and meet our cost of doing business, so we had no choice but to raise rates."

TLC Director of Operations Lon Fricano said the base rate for advanced life support ambulance services through TLC is now $835, up from $715. The cost of basic life support in a TLC ambulance is now $525, previously $495, he said, and the per-mile cost has gone up a quarter to $12.25 from $12.

Those rates will be felt by the uninsured paying out-of-pocket for medical care, and those with heath insurance that might not cover ambulance service. Medicare and Medicaid clients who use TLC services will not experience raised rates, because the cost to those customers is controlled by the federal and state governments.

"No one should be denied an ambulance," Fricano said. "You've got to treat people whether they can pay or not, and we're happy to do that. Everybody gets treated the same."

Michael Addario, division general manager for Rural/Metro Medical Services, said because most reimbursement rates are fixed, raising the rates wouldn't necessarily mean a higher income.

Rural/Metro has experienced rising costs, too, Addario said, but has tried to find ways to deal with them without passing the costs onto patients.

While they're finding different ways to streamline business, both Addario and Fricano pointed out that ambulance providers are not compensated by Medicare and Medicaid for the full amount it costs to care for those patients.

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