AUSTIN, Texas - STAR Flight rates are going up by $11,000 for county residents. Out-of-county residents will pay thousands more too.
Travis County Emergency Services said right now STAR Flight is costing the county $6.7 million a year to operate. $2 million is covered by revenue.
On Tuesday Travis County Commissioners gave approval on a rate hike that is expected to bring in another one million dollars.
Right now Travis County residents pay a base rate of $4,500. Non-county residents pay $9,500. All patients pay an additional fee of $165.00 per mile on the way to the hospital.
Starting August 1st, the new base rate will be $15,500 across the board with a fee of $200 per mile in route to the hospital.
$15,500 may seem like a lot, but emergency services said as it stands Central Texans pay the least for service thanks to the public service of STAR Flight. In North Texas the average charge is $22,000. The average charge in South Texas is $20,000.
A year ago commissioners asked emergency services to take a look at the cost to operate STAR Flight to reduce the burden on tax payers. What they found was the majority of those served lived out of county 548 patients, compared to 162 county residents.
Emergency services said 20% of patients don't pay for services. The other 80% are on payment plans which don't come in at the rate billed. Anytime STAR Flight assists a fire department or performs rescue services those services are free.
STAR Flight said the result of all of this is the county will never be able to receive a reimbursement that will actually cover services.
The fee increase will impact those with high deductibles and co-pays, but STAR Flight said it will work with those who have trouble paying their bills.
"We have a plan now. We have been using that to address hardship cases for people who financially have challenges and so that process has been working. We will continue to use those. We at STAR Flight, we review those and then we make a recommendation to the executive manager over at emergency services and he has the authority to reduce or waive fees based on those conditions,” said STAR Flight Program Director Casey Ping.
The $15,500 rate could change. Commissioners gave approval for STAR Flight to change the fee by 8% up or down as needed.
STAR Flight will report back to commissioners annually.