In that circumstance, the patient needs an IV as a precaution because he or she is having difficulty breathing. That service is called advanced life support, level 1.
Aberdeen Fire and Rescue has six levels of charges for a ride in an ambulance. Most car accident responses are considered basic life support calls, which cost $575. The least expensive trip is $550, which is for a nonemergency, basic life support trip.
The most expensive is specialty care transport, priced at $1,000. In those situations, certified and licensed personnel are required to transport a critically ill patient. That service is used only once or twice a year, said Susan Lehr, collections specialist in the city finance department.
In addition to the standard fee, the customer is also charged a mileage rate of $12.50 per mile.
People who decide not to board an ambulance are charged nothing, and refusal of service is quite common. Lehr and Fire Chief Bill Winter estimate that service is refused 30 to 35 percent of the time that an ambulance is called.
About 35 percent of those transported via ambulance by the city are Medicare or Medicaid recipients.
For a $675 ambulance trip, Medicare allows the city to charge $514.57, and Medicare pays 80 percent of that amount.
The remaining 20 percent is paid by the patient or, if he or she has it, supplemental insurance.
If people can't pay an ambulance bill or don’t have insurance, the city will work with them. But they need to inform the city. The city understands that medical bills are often very expensive, Lehr said. “But they need to call us. They can't just let the bill go,” she said. “I accept payments from a lot of patients.”
A response to a person suffering cardiac arrest is called advanced life support, level 2.
“We're going to be using all the equipment available to help that person out,” Lehr said. The cost of that service is $900.
Aberdeen Fire and Rescue responds with an ambulance and fire truck to all motor vehicle accidents and heart-related calls. Five to seven employees arrive at each of those calls.
Winter and Lehr said that, compared to cities outside South Dakota, $900 for an ambulance call is reasonable. The amount is also not out of line considering the amount of service that's provided, Lehr said.
Winter said Aberdeen Fire and Rescue is responsive to the public.
If people are not happy with ambulance or fire service, they can call the mayor or the city offices and let them know.
“When you call to complain to our mayor, I get a call. I find out what's happening, report back to him and to the person. You don't get that from the private service,” Winter said.
If you call 911, Aberdeen Fire and Rescue responds. To summon Aberdeen Ambulance, the privately owned ambulance service in Aberdeen, people must call 605-225-9600.
Aberdeen Ambulance is also accountable to its customers, said co-owner Dan Mielke. If somebody's not satisfied with Aberdeen Ambulance, “The complaint comes straight to me, and I take care of it myself,” Mielke said.
Winter said Aberdeen’s fire department is one of the best in the state. More than half the firefighters are also paramedics, he said.