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Ambulance Transport Billing Questions

Basic Life Support Transport Program

The following are frequently asked questions regarding the new Basic Life Support (BLS) Transport program and general transport billing questions. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is changing? 

Beginning in May 2021, Tacoma Fire Department (TFD) started providing Basic Life Support Transport services. Previously, this service was delivered primarily through a contract with a private ambulance company. For most of 2021, BLS transport will be provided by both TFD and our currently contracted private ambulance provider, American Medical Response (AMR). You may receive an invoice from either agency.  

 

What is the difference between Basic Life Support transport and Advanced Life Support transport?  

Basic Life Support (BLS) is an emergency transport provided by certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). Advanced Life Support (ALS) is provided when a patient is in a more critical condition and a certified paramedic is needed to assist in the treatment of the patient before and/or during transport to the emergency facility. 

 

What will happen when I call 911 and need BLS services?  

Depending on the nature of the emergency and your location, either a TFD BLS company or an AMR unit will provide your transport to a nearby medical facility. TFD BLS Transport companies will be phased into the emergency response system in 2021, with two TFD BLS transport companies going into service in May, and three additional TFD BLS transport companies in November.   

  

Billing FAQs

 

Is there a charge for being transported by the Tacoma Fire Department? 

Yes, both BLS and ALS transportation services have a cost. The 2021 rate for a BLS patient transport is $980 and $20 for each mile traveled from the scene of your incident to the medical facility; ALS patient transport is $1,220 and $20 for each mile traveled from the scene of your incident to the medical facility. Most, and sometimes all of these charges are covered by your insurance provider; however, there may be a balance after your insurance has paid. If you have questions about what your insurance covers, please contact them directly.  

 

Is there a charge for being transported by AMR? 

Yes, AMR has a fee schedule for their services and, if you are transported by them, you will receive an invoice from them. Any questions related to AMR charges or invoices should be directed to 800-913-9106 or amr.seattle@amr.net.  

 

Will I have any out-of-pocket costs for my TFD transport? 

It depends.  

 

For ALS, any balance remaining after your insurance has paid could be covered by the EMS Levy. You MUST contact us (through email at TFDBilling@cityoftacoma.org or phone at (253) 591-5844 to confirm we’ve billed all appropriate insurance coverage(s) to access the levy for your balance, otherwise you will be billed.  

 

For BLS, you will be billed for any balance not covered by your insurance provider(s) if you are not a resident of the City of Fife/FD10. Please contact us through email at TFDBilling@cityoftacoma.org or phone at (253) 591-5844 to confirm we have all your appropriate insurance coverage(s) in our records.  

 

What is the EMS Levy and how does it relate to my out-of-pocket cost for being transported by the Tacoma Fire Department? 

The EMS Levy is a voted property tax that can cover unpaid portions of your medical transport bill, depending on your area of residence and type of transport (ALS or BLS). The EMS Levy can be used for only what is outlined in the ballot language provided for that levy election.  

 

If you live in the City of Tacoma, City of Fircrest, or Pierce County Fire District 10/City of Fife (FD10), and you are transported for ALS, you will have no out of pocket costs after you confirm with us we’ve billed your insurance provider(s). You may receive an invoice showing your remaining balance after the insurance has paid. That invoice will contain contact information so you can verify with us you have no other insurance to bill, and then we will write down your balance to $0. 

 

If you live in the City of Tacoma or Fircrest, and you are transported for BLS, you WILL have an out-of-pocket cost after we’ve billed your insurance provider(s). If you live in FD10, and you are transported BLS, your full invoice should be covered by your insurance provider(s) and the EMS Levy. These are due to the different language each jurisdiction used on the last election for their respective levy. To summarize this information, see the table below: 

 

Patient Responsibility after Insurance Coverage
 Service Area ALS Transport  BLS Transport 
 City of Tacoma   N/A Yes 
 City of Fircrest  N/A Yes
 Pierce County Fire District 10/City of Fife  N/A  None

 

Why does TFD charge transport fees? 

To reduce the cost to residents for the EMS system, we set a charge for transport services that pays for the expenses of the program. This allows us to have a rate to bill your insurance and try to recover our costs through those payments.  Also, numerous patients using EMS in our area do not reside or pay taxes here, and this charge allows them to help pay their portion of the service they are using.  

 

How do I pay?  

You will receive an invoice from the City of Tacoma Fire Department that will provide our current payment options. These include: 
  • Mailing a check to 901 Fawcett Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402, or 
  • Delivering payment (check or cash) to our Headquarters building dropbox (a large blue box outside the 2nd-floor door) at 901 Fawcett Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402, or  
  • Calling (253) 591-5844 to make a credit card payment over the phone. Our office hours for phone payments or questions are Monday-Friday 8 AM – 5 PM excluding holidays.  

Please make checks payable to City of Tacoma and send to: 

Tacoma Fire Department 
901 Fawcett Ave. 
Tacoma, WA 98402

Be sure to note your account or invoice number on your check, and provide a current phone number where you can be reached.  

 

When do I pay? 

All outstanding charges are due within 30 days. Charges not paid after 90 days will be reviewed for submittal to a collection agency. We do allow payment plans so please contact us at (253) 591-5844 or TFDBilling@cityoftacoma.org to make arrangements for your particular situation.