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LA Fire Department could raise bills for people who call 911

Fire
(Thinkstock)

The Los Angeles Fire Department should change the way it bills people who call 911 for medical help, according to a new audit.

The 97-page report issued by City Controller Ron Galperin urges fire officials to develop new ways to recover millions of dollars spent each year on medical rescues.

The city now only charges 911 callers who are transported to a hospital, and the vast majority of those fees go uncollected, partly due to caps on how much the LAFD is allowed to charge government insurance programs that fund healthcare for the poor and the elderly, the report said, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The audit recommends that officials consider changes to billing practices that it says could raise more than $16 million each year, including introducing new fees for 911 callers who are treated but not taken to a hospital. It also urges the LAFD to collect money for care given to patients newly covered by health insurance plans under President Obama’s healthcare system overhaul.

Marc Eckstein, an emergency room physician and the LAFD’s medical director, said he would welcome changes to decrease the financial incentive to drive 911 callers to hospitals when they can sometimes be better treated at the scene, according to The Times. But improving the system will require numerous changes in regulations at the federal, state and city level, he said.

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