California town's fire dept. to charge for medical aid

Folsom Fire Department's new fee for medical aid reflects an unnerving trend of cash-strapped cities taking desperate turns to bring in money. CBS News

(CBS News) The fire department in Folsom, Calif., will start charging $225 for emergency medical services, reflecting a trend of financially strapped cities taking unusual steps to close burgeoning budget gaps.

The Sacramento County city begins implementing the new policy Monday, according to CBS Sacramento.

"The real issue is how do we provide the essential services the community is seeking from us?" Folsom Fire Chief Ron Phillips said.

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Currently Folsom residents are treated by paramedics for free because it is covered by the Fire Department. The fee is an additional cost on top of taxes residents already pay and applies whether or not the patient is actually transported to the hospital.

The new revenue -- expected to bring in $250,000 in the next fiscal year -- will go toward gas, supplies and paramedic personnel, according to the report.

Folsom is not the first city to charge a fee for medical aid. Sacramento Metro Fire already charges $275 for medical aid and Sacramento Fire has a smaller fee of $96 if the patient does not go to the hospital.

Folsom isn't alone among struggling municipalities. Three cities in California have either declared bankruptcy or announced plans to do so, all within a month. The southern city of San Bernadino, Central Valley's Stockton and the small High Sierra town of Mammoth Lakes all have multi-million dollar deficits.

The financial difficulties are hardly limited to California. The mayor of Scranton, Pa., recently slashed paychecks to some city workers, including police officers and firefighters, to minimum wage, prompting vows to sue from unions representing those workers.

In Folsom, Fire Chief Phillips urged residents to call 911 if they need it, regardless of the fee.

Some residents, however, are skeptical about how much the new policy will help.

"I believe that those who've paid their taxes all these years will end up paying for those who don't, just like we do now," said Judy Lowder.

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