Seminole County Commissioners will consider suspending ambulance fees Tuesday due to a loophole that has left many area residents stuck with high bills not covered by health insurance.

Currently, county residents calling for an ambulance who are treated on the scene can be charged up to $800 for the service, and Medicare, Medicaid, and many private insurers leave those patients to foot the bill.

Patients taken to the hospital, however, have a much better shot of their insurer picking up the tab.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” County Commission Chairman John Horan told the Orlando Sentinel. In some cases, “better [medical] service is given when you treat the person in place, but now we’re learning that isn’t covered.”

Proponents say a temporary suspension of ambulance fees will give the county time to study whether the fees should be reduced or eliminated, while also giving healthcare lobbyists time to advocate a solution in the Florida Legislature.

Seminole commissioner Brenda Carey is advocating for state and federal lawmakers to work toward having Medicaid and Medicare pick up the bill, rather than permanently eliminating the fees.

Being able to treat patients at the scene can be less costly and less resource intensive for health care facilities, which often are stretched thin in their emergency departments.

Patients who require a simple fix, such as an insulin shot or bandages, can overburden emergency room staff while also keeping ambulances out of the rotation and away from more serious emergencies longer.

Neighboring Lake and Orange counties generally transport ambulance patients to a hospital, though about 25 percent of their calls are non-transport patients, and those counties do not bill out for most services rendered at the scene.

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