Modesto Looks to Join Other Fire Agencies that Bill Insurance for Responding to Calls

The Modesto Fire Department wants to bill insurance companies when its firefighters respond to car accidents, medical emergencies, fires, and other calls for service. This is expected to bring in about $1.5 million annually for the department's budget, according to two city reports, but Fire Chief Alan Ernst said in an interview that the additional funding will help the department maintain its current level of service. While the city is collecting more in sales, property, and other taxes that support public safety and other city services, those taxes have not grown as fast as the city's expenses - primarily the cost of its employees - and city officials have looked for ways to bridge the gap.

"We are looking at ways of maintaining the level of service that the community expects," Ernst said. Ernst stressed that insurance companies, not the people firefighters help, will be expected to pay these bills. He said that the billing companies that the city is considering using will not pursue payment from people if insurers do not pay.

First Responder Fee

Ernst said Fire Recovery would bill private insurance companies for the money they collect from policy holders for these services. A city report calls it "the recovery of insurance mitigation rates associated with these types of high impact incidents." The amount charged would vary by the type of call. For instance, the charge for responding to a car accident could be $516.

A city report states that it is becoming common for fire departments to try to recover some of their costs through billing insurance companies.

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