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  • Bill Would Outlaw Indiana Fire Fees

    Can anyone elaborate? Does IN allow for dues collection or is there a tax already assessed?


    Bill Would Outlaw Indiana Fire Fees


    Story by theindychannel.com
    ..INDIANAPOLIS

    --


    An Indiana lawmaker is crafting new legislation after a New Castle family was billed nearly $28,000 following a fire at their home.


    6News' Joanna Massee

    contacted U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th District, after Brian and Darline Fairchild received an itemized bill from the Cadiz/Harrison Volunteer Fire Department for charges related to a 2009 fire.

    The bill included charges for the water firefighters drank at the scene and refilling firefighters' oxygen tanks, along with the billing company's 22 percent fee.

    "I thought it was terrible that somebody that just lost their home would be stuck with a $28,000 bill to clean up the mess and for the services that were provided," Burton said.

    Robert Blackford with Brownsburg-based Emergency Services Billing Corp. said a federal environmental law -- the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA -- allowed the company to charge unlimited fees for house fires and car crashes.

    Burton's proposed bill, the Innocent Fire Victims Protection Act, would amend CERCLA to protect house-fire and car-crash victims if the government cannot prove that the owner of the home or car engaged in illegal activity.

    "I thought that we ought to have some kind of method to make sure that people who have suffered this kind of tragedy don't have to suffer it in addition with a huge expense," Burton said.

    Insurance Institute of Indiana Vice President Marty Wood said he hopes the bill passes.

    "If this were to become law, I think it will be just about everything we could ask for," he said.

    Emergency Services Billing Corp. declined to comment on the proposed bill on Monday.

    Burton said he hopes to introduce the bill in a week or so after circulating it around the House to get original cosponsors.
    Am I being effective in my efforts or am I merely showing up in my fireman costume to watch a house burn down?” (Joe Brown, www.justlookingbusy.wordpress.com)

  • #2
    Fees for service have been discussed by a local career FD, since there are charges that insurance companies will pay. Most apply to motor vehicle incidents - extrication fees, etc.

    This isn't the first time I've heard of FD's charging for services rendered, but it isn't very common.

    In NY, a volunteer FD based ambulance can't bill, but an independent not-for-profit can. In many cases such squads get subsidies from local municipalities, but those money's are usually just about enough to keep an ambulance ready to roll, but not enough to actually provide service.

    I'd opine that such billing, if there was a reasonable expectation that most or all of the billed amount would actually be paid - particularly by insurance - could turn into a method of reducing the load on taxpayers overall. The general tax base pays to keep the equipment available, but the people who actually use the service pay for it.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

    Comment


    • #3
      Our Dept. is a taxing body so we can not bill our residents since they already pay us for doing our jobs. We DO send a bill to people who do not live in our district or pay taxes to us. So if a car crash occurs on the interstate there will be a bill, if a guy falls off his bike in town and he doesn't live in our district he gets a bill. Its just a way to recoup some of the costs and be able to better serve our community.

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't know if there is a similar situation in Indiana, but here in Oklahoma it depends on how the FD is structured. I know of quite a few department that are set up as "memberships". These districts don't collect any taxes, but are purely funded by individual households paying a membership fee. If a house inside that district burns there are two options.

        Option A: The department puts out the fire of a "member" out, packs up, and goes home.

        Option B: The department puts out the fire of a "non-member", and then sends a bill since they have not purchased fire protection.

        Of course there is always Option C: If the house is not a member, let it burn, but I don't know of any department that would stoop to that level. There is a reason those guys are firefighters.

        The reason they bill is because they recieve no tax money, and their only income is from membership fees. If there is no consequence to not paying a membership fee (they put out the fire anyway and do it for "free"), then there would be nobody joining and the department would go broke.

        Unfortionately I often see the following from the people living in the district:

        1) I am paying no membership, my house won't burn down.
        2) Why should I pay after a fire, that's what the FD is there for.
        3) Don't you dare tax me!!!!!!! (If you try to form an actual Tax-funded district).
        "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

        Comment


        • #5
          In KY the VFD's that arent a taxing distdict or what not only have a couple os choices in regards to funding, membership dues or adding it to the property tax bill.

          In regards to membership dues departments here range from just under 20% collection to just 25%. The ones that usually pay without waiting are the ones that are on fixed incomes, the ones that don't pay are those with homes over $200,000. The bad thing is those people get the same services as the ones that pay. A few yrs ago Allen County had a bill introduced into the State that was passed, now its up to each county individually to adopt the bill in where the fee/dues are assessed to the property tax bill. With this departments can now plan for the future as the collction rate is 100% of the population. Some counties have yet to adopt it and they struggle
          Am I being effective in my efforts or am I merely showing up in my fireman costume to watch a house burn down?” (Joe Brown, www.justlookingbusy.wordpress.com)

          Comment


          • #6
            I know it is POSSIBLE to bill in Indiana, but few departments have actually taken to the process. Last year, I believe a couple of the Indianapolis Suburbs were looking into billing for Rescue and Extrication calls. I know that we are also allowed to (and many depts do) bill for EMS calls. However, most depts will bill the insurance company and perhaps send one bill to the patient, but it seldom ever goes further, even if they don't pay. The only ones I've seen where the city legal team might get involved are the frequent flyers that are blatantly abusing the system and wasting everyone's time and resources (we had one gal that called us THREE times in about a 16 hour period for the same "problem." The ER would send her home telling her there is nothing wrong and within minutes of getting home, she'd call 9-1-1 again).

            I also know that on structure fires we might bill the insurance company if something "not-normal" happens. For example, we make entry and there are chemicals that ruin a company's gear, we'll submit a bill to the insurance company to replace the turnouts. But that never goes to the homeowner. But if it's just a get in, search, put water on it and overhaul, then we don't send a bill.

            Now I don't know if our Investigator determines it was intentional, he might be able to bill at that point, but I can support that.

            Comment


            • #7
              Let me put it this way.

              If you are to charge for services then don't tax me.

              If I am taxed to pay for the service then don't bill me.

              Comment


              • #8
                Crap...........

                Originally posted by LT2387 View Post
                Can anyone elaborate? Does IN allow for dues collection or is there a tax already assessed?


                Bill Would Outlaw Indiana Fire Fees


                Story by theindychannel.com
                ..INDIANAPOLIS

                --


                An Indiana lawmaker is crafting new legislation after a New Castle family was billed nearly $28,000 following a fire at their home.


                6News' Joanna Massee

                contacted U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th District, after Brian and Darline Fairchild received an itemized bill from the Cadiz/Harrison Volunteer Fire Department for charges related to a 2009 fire.

                The bill included charges for the water firefighters drank at the scene and refilling firefighters' oxygen tanks, along with the billing company's 22 percent fee.

                "I thought it was terrible that somebody that just lost their home would be stuck with a $28,000 bill to clean up the mess and for the services that were provided," Burton said.

                Robert Blackford with Brownsburg-based Emergency Services Billing Corp. said a federal environmental law -- the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA -- allowed the company to charge unlimited fees for house fires and car crashes.

                Burton's proposed bill, the Innocent Fire Victims Protection Act, would amend CERCLA to protect house-fire and car-crash victims if the government cannot prove that the owner of the home or car engaged in illegal activity.

                "I thought that we ought to have some kind of method to make sure that people who have suffered this kind of tragedy don't have to suffer it in addition with a huge expense," Burton said.

                Insurance Institute of Indiana Vice President Marty Wood said he hopes the bill passes.

                "If this were to become law, I think it will be just about everything we could ask for," he said.


                Emergency Services Billing Corp. declined to comment on the proposed bill on Monday.

                Burton said he hopes to introduce the bill in a week or so after circulating it around the House to get original cosponsors.

                TOTAL GREED............ I'll bet almost anything that IF this Bill passes, the Insurance Industry (Whose Lobbyists will fight tooth and nail to get it passed) will not reduce premiums by a single penny, but just Pocket the added Profits......
                Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
                In memory of
                Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
                Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

                IACOJ Budget Analyst

                I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

                www.gdvfd18.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have to say that I also disagree with billing the homeowners. I might not fully understand the issue here, though.

                  Would this normally be paid by the homeowner's insurance and the legislator in this case is just a mark for the insurance companies?

                  If Harve opposes this, and I don't, then I'm sure I don't understand the issue...

                  What am I missing here?
                  I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

                  "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

                  "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    in illinois if you are taxed you can not be billed, unless there is an extraordinary event like calling a specialized team that is no in district. if you live in the coverage area and no in corporate limits you are not taxed, so you can get charged but the limit is about to be 250 per hr plus lost equipment.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ChiefKN View Post
                      I have to say that I also disagree with billing the homeowners. I might not fully understand the issue here, though.

                      Would this normally be paid by the homeowner's insurance and the legislator in this case is just a mark for the insurance companies?

                      If Harve opposes this, and I don't, then I'm sure I don't understand the issue...

                      What am I missing here?
                      I think it depends largely on the funding stream.

                      If your department is fully funded by taxes (as many are), then the idea of billing makes little sense.

                      If your department isn't fully funded by taxes - which might mean either that you do a lot of fundraising or that your budget keeps getting cut to the point that it affects service delivery - then billing starts to look like a possible source of revenue.

                      If there's a problem with billing (aside from insurance company opposition) it's that I'd imagine that insurance company reimbursements along this line are probably as inconsistant across companies as they are for rides in an ambulance - some pay $50, some pay the whole bill. Legally, an ambulance service has to go after the patient for any unpaid balance unless there is a contractual agreement with the insurance (ie, Medicare & Medicaid). I'm not sure how that would work for fire response billing.

                      At this point, I doubt there is little consistency in FD billing practices as well. We might bill for just the apparatus and manpower, while you're busy counting water bottles and lengths of hose used.

                      There is also the question of mutual aid - they're gonna want a cut, too.
                      Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

                      Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        First off, let's say that the house is not in a fire district, contract, or otherwise covered.
                        If it is my bill I will need to see it itemized. I would expect to pay approximately:
                        Firefighter - $40/hr
                        Officer - $50/hr
                        Chief - $75/hr
                        Engine - $150/hr
                        Arial - $250/hr
                        etc. (and these are just numbers I pulled out of the air)
                        Now comes the interseting part. I do research and see that FDNY can put out a fire similar to mine using 2 engines, 1 ladder, 6 firemen, one officer, and a chief. They will be done with this fire in 1.5 hours.
                        - Do I have the right to pay only what some other department would have had to use?
                        - Was I given the choice as to what departments came so that I could limit my costs?
                        - Do I even have a say in this, or do I need to call my insurance company before I call 911 to see what they will pay for?

                        Here in NW PA we have a $500 fire deparmtent rider on all homeowner policies. Fire departments have the right to charge the $500 fee to the insurance. (I believe this may be state wide, but I am not sure). We do not as we are a volunteer organization that receives 90% of our funding from fund raisers and community donations. We are here to help our neighbors, and not bill them for doing so.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by HuntPA View Post
                          Now comes the interseting part. I do research and see that FDNY can put out a fire similar to mine using 2 engines, 1 ladder, 6 firemen, one officer, and a chief. They will be done with this fire in 1.5 hours.
                          - Do I have the right to pay only what some other department would have had to use?
                          - Was I given the choice as to what departments came so that I could limit my costs?
                          - Do I even have a say in this, or do I need to call my insurance company before I call 911 to see what they will pay for?
                          You're confusing a free enterprise system with government fee schedules. (Or quasi-government, as with vol. FD) Let's say you're building an addition to your house. You can hire any contractor. ABC Co. might give you a price that says $25000 to build it. XYZ Inc. might say it's going to take 6 carpenters, a foreman, and a project manager, at $, $$, and $$$ respectively, etc. etc.; your estimated total will come to $25,003.69. You then have the chance to choose which format of the estimate you prefer, whose methods of workmanship, etc.

                          Now go to get your permit - your town might charge $150 for the permit, plus $250 inspection fees, plus $50 plan review. The borough 4 miles away charges $15 for the permit, nothing for the inspections or plan review. Do you think you'd be able to say "the borough only charges $15, that's what I want to pay."?
                          Opinions expressed are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Philadelphia Fire Department and/or IAFF Local 22.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by LT2387 View Post
                            In KY the VFD's that arent a taxing distdict or what not only have a couple os choices in regards to funding, membership dues or adding it to the property tax bill.

                            In regards to membership dues departments here range from just under 20% collection to just 25%. The ones that usually pay without waiting are the ones that are on fixed incomes, the ones that don't pay are those with homes over $200,000. The bad thing is those people get the same services as the ones that pay. A few yrs ago Allen County had a bill introduced into the State that was passed, now its up to each county individually to adopt the bill in where the fee/dues are assessed to the property tax bill. With this departments can now plan for the future as the collection rate is 100% of the population. Some counties have yet to adopt it and they struggle
                            KY has had fire taxing districts under KRS (Kentucky Revised Statutes) 75 for decades (last revision in 1984). Our department started as a fire taxing district. The rate is up to .10, in which the sheriff's office receives up to 1.5% of that for collecting. For a FD to claim a fire taxing district they must abide by all KRS 75 subsection and they must submit to the county for the taxing district. The county must then have public meetings discussing the district for all county citizens, whether they are in the taxing district or not. Then it must be voted on by the commission and depending on the county must be on a ballot. Obviously this is a tax and people will most likely not vote in a tax.

                            We do charge for fire, vehicle and HAZMAT incidents. HAZMAT is billed under a county ordinance. There are caps on what can be charged under KRS 75 per apparatus hour and per man hour. I do have to say that $28,000 seems a bit extreme though for a house structure fire. I also have to say that if the owner or insurance does not pay, it costs more to try and collect than the money's we would have received.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by LT2387 View Post

                              Insurance Institute of Indiana Vice President Marty Wood said he hopes the bill passes.

                              "If this were to become law, I think it will be just about everything we could ask for," he said.
                              If the Insurance Companies are in favor of the bill then it is probably a BadThing(tm) for Fire Departments, Communities, and Citizens. The bill seems more about greed by the insurance company (and trying to get out of paying for something that was covered in the policy) and nothing to do with those evil firefighters charging for the water they drank while on scene.

                              I agree that double dipping by taxing and billing is, at a minimum, unethical. At the same time billing the Insurance Company for fees the homeowner was covered for seems perfectly fine..
                              So you call this your free country
                              Tell me why it costs so much to live
                              -3dd

                              Comment

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