The cost of ambulance rides is going up.

A two percent increase in ambulance rates charged by town was approved by the Board of Selectmen Wednesday night, Aug. 21. The higher rates will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The least expensive ambulance service — Basic Life Support — will go from $743 to $758. The most expensive ambulance service — Advanced Life Support Level Two — will go from $1,214 to $1,238.

There are a variety of other revised charges, all increases of about two percent: Advanced Life Support Level One Non-ER: $762; Advanced Life Support Level One ER, $1,198; Paramedic Intercept, $851; Basic Life Support Helicopter Assist, $496; Advance Life Support Helicopter Assist, $771; Advanced Life Support Assessment, $445; Specialty Care Transport, $1,646; Waiting Time Charge, $201; Per-Mile Charge, $18.14; Special Attendant Charge, $148.

Although helicopter assists are in the list, they are almost never used in Ridgefield because hospitals aren’t that far away.

The changes are based on maximum allowable charges set by the state.

“What we have is the state’s standard rate,” Fire Chief Jerry Myers told the selectmen.

The ambulances’ 2,203 emergency medical service calls made up 58% of the fire department’s 3,817 calls in calendar year 2018, according to Myers, and ambulance revenues cover approximately 28 percent of EMS expenses.

Myers told the selectmen that the town does try to collect ambulance fees, but isn’t overbearing about it.

“If a person has insurance we get permission to bill that,” he says.

“As rule, the billing company sends out a bill.”

People who don’t pay are reminded of the obligation — but not chased for payment, he said.

“They would send out a bill for that, and we send out two additional reminders — that’s all we do,” Myers said.

At the Board of Finance meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20, Controller Kevin Redmond said that after ambulance income appeared to be flat or declining about four months ago, the town had met with the firm that does the billing and collecting. They ended up redesigning the bill format to create a “more understandable” bill, according to Redmond.

“We changed the look and the feel of the bill,” he said.

He also said that while the firm is gentle with Ridgefield residents, it is now clear that it will be a little more aggressive with non-residents who end up using Ridgefield’s ambulances.

People do sometimes resist receiving ambulance service, and will mention the cost as a reason, Myers said, but he didn’t feel the costs were really the concern in most of these situations — people are sometimes just upset. And he didn’t think many people refused ambulance service out of concern for the costs.

“Our guys are very good about saying ‘We’re here to take care of you,’” Chief Myers told the selectmen.