OIFR’s cost recovery is a great idea | Editorial

We applaud Orcas Fire and Rescue for implementing a new revenue source that will not raise taxes or cost island residents money.

An EMS cost recovery program has been working successfully for the Lopez and San Juan Island districts for the past five years. After a series of public meetings and research conducted by a task force, OIFR is soon to be launching its own cost recovery initiative.

Here is how it works: if an Orcas resident uses OIFR’s emergency medical services, that person’s insurance will be billed for the cost of treatment and transportation. Any remaining balances like a co-pay or a deductible will be waived. If a patient does not have insurance, then no one will be billed. You are considered an Orcas resident even if you rent a home or live here part-time. Patients will be treated regardless of their insurance status.

For visitors to the island, remaining balances after insurance is billed will not be waived and those without coverage will be billed in full. If those amounts are not paid, the chief has the option of sending that person to a collection agency.

The average cost for EMS treatment and transport is $1,742. That includes fuel, supplies, vehicle and equipment maintenance, training, volunteer stipends and employee wages. Call volume continues to increase for OIFR, and while the levy contributes to infrastructure and base operations costs, there is only so far that money can stretch.

According to FEMA, many departments across the country implement direct billing to those who use fire department’s services, or they have “subscription” programs available. We are thankful that OIFR is not instating either of those options, which would cost islanders money.

Those with insurance are already paying for emergency services, but as it is now, OIFR doesn’t receive any of those funds. Why not capitalize on an opportunity that has proven to work for fire departments across the country, and will not cause financial hardship for islanders?  More than 90 departments in Washington state currently have successful cost recovery program in place.

We think it’s a win-win for Orcas.