Commissioners on the Cumberland County Budget Committee voted to increase its Emergency Medical Service (EMS) patient transport rates during last week's meeting.

The full county commission will have to approve the increase before it goes into effect.

Cumberland County Fire Chief and EMS Director Jeff Dodson told commissioners via letter that effective, Jan. 1, 2012, Medicare will increase payments to emergency medical service providers by 2.4 percent for inflation. The county has no choice in the matter of Medicare increasing its rate.

In the letter, Dodson recommended the county increase its rates reflecting the Medicare increase.

Dodson wrote, "We have verified with EMS consultants (that Cumberland County EMS department) billing software has been updated and we will receive the additional funds. However, it will be necessary to change our basic and mileage charges 2.4 percent if we wish to receive any additional money from other insurance or payment methods."

The current county charges are $600 for advanced life support (ALS) transport and $550 for basic life support (BLS) transport. Round trip from a home or nursing home to the hospital or treatment center and back home is $600, plus mileage is added to that at a rate of $10.50 per mile on all calls.

"I recommend the following changes — ALS $615, BLS $564. Round trip to and from hospital at $615 and mileage at $10.75 per mile," Dodson wrote.

"I thought we had something in place to automatically raise the rates when Medicare raised theirs. If there's not one in place, then I think we ought to put one in place and add it to the agenda," said Budget Committee Chairman and 9th District Commissioner Carmin Lynch.

Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner, moved to accept Dodson's recommendations for rate increases and to add a resolution to the agenda for the county to automatically increase its rates reflecting the rate increases of Medicare.

Hyder's motion was supported by Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner, and it was unanimously approved.