Health and Safety Code Section 13916:
(a) A district board may charge a fee to cover the cost of any service which the district provides or the cost of enforcing any regulation for which the fee is charged. No fee shall exceed the costs reasonably borne by the district in providing the service or enforcing the regulation for which the fee is charged. A district board shall not charge a fee on new construction or development for the construction of public improvements or facilities or the acquisition of equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a First Responder Fee?
First Responder Fees are cost recovery to support increasing EMS cost for advanced EMS services by first responders, not covered by property taxes. They are permitted under Section 13916 of the California Health & Safety Code.
Why have I received a First Responder Fee bill?
You have received this bill because the Sonoma County Fire District responded to a 9-1-1 call from you or someone representing you and a medical assessment was performed.
What if I received a bill?
If you have received an invoice, please use the contact information provided on the invoice to submit your insurance information. If you do not have insurance, use the contact information provided on the invoice to let Wittman Enterprises know.
Am I responsible for paying the First Responder Fees?
First Responder Fees are fully or partially covered by most medical insurance carriers. If you receive a First Responder Fee bill, use the contact information provided on the invoice to submit your insurance information for billing.
I have Medicare. Do I have to pay the First Responder Fee?
Yes. Medicare does not cover the first responder fee. Please use the contact information on the invoice to let Wittman Enterprises know you have Medicare.
I have Medi-Cal/Medicaid. Do I have to pay the First Responder Fee?
No. Please use the contact information on the invoice to let Wittman Enterprises know you have Medi-Cal/Medicaid.
What if I do not have medical insurance coverage?
If a patient does not have medical insurance, the patient should immediately notify Wittman Enterprises.
What if I am unable to pay my bill?
Sonoma County Fire District has a hardship policy that allows applications to waive, reduce or set up a payment plan. The hardship application can be requested from Wittman Enterprises or downloaded from https://www.sonomacountyfd.org/transport-billing-hardship-policy
Do I have to pay a portion of the bill if my insurance does not cover the entire balance?
It depends. The Sonoma County Fire District does not balance bill residents of the District that are assessed the Sonoma County Fire District special tax.
Why is my medical insurance carrier responsible for paying this fee?
Pre-hospital care is considered to be a critical component of the healthcare system, saving lives resulting in the support of most medical insurance carriers covering the First Responder Fees.
Do my taxes cover this service?
Local fire agencies have far expanded their original duty of fighting fires and responding to emergencies. Originally, only basic medical services were provided (splints, CPR, etc.). Today, more than 80% of all calls the fire district responds to are for advanced life support, including intubations and the use of defibrillators. The challenge for fire districts is to ensure revenues match the increasing expenses for providing this essential public service. This change in balance from traditional fire suppression to medical services has shifted the rationale for financing fire district operations toward a combination of general fund revenues and user fees, instead of solely from general fund revenues. This combination will create a more sustainable funding source by providing revenues beyond property tax assessments.
Who is doing the billing?
Sonoma County Fire District has entered into an agreement with a professional billing service, Wittman Enterprises, who specialized in fire district fee recovery. This was done because Wittman Enterprises has an established relationship with the insurance industry, an acceptable rate of return for recovering costs, and charges a reasonable rate for this service. We determined there was no way our existing administrative staff could have taken on this additional work and been successful in fee recovery as an established company.
I received a bill from another ambulance transporting agency, why am I receiving a second bill?
The First Responder Fee is a separate billable item than the ambulance transport fee.
How did this process get approved or adopted?
The Sonoma County Fire District Board of Directors held two public hearings:
- June 16, 2020 for the first reading of Ordinance 2020-02
- July 21, 2020 for the adoption of Ordinance 2020-02
Upon adoption of Ordinance 2020-02, the ordinance was published in The Press Democrat as required and fees were implemented.
How are First Responder Fee rates determined?
First Responder Fee rates vary but are generally determined by totaling the hourly benefitted rate of an engine, truck company, or squad personnel response, apparatus fuel, equipment, maintenance and/or lease costs, administrative staff and billing support, and disposable medical supplies used by first responders. The rate is set in the most recent https://www.sonomacountyfd.org/ordinance-2020-02
Are other fire districts charging the same or similar fees?
Yes. The implementation and collection of First Responder Fees has become an industry standard to fund the enhanced paramedic level of service provided by fire district resources and their staffing.
What if I have additional questions?
Please contact Wittman Enterprises for any questions about billing. They may be contacted at 855-611-0056.