Cost of fueling health: Rising gas prices slam Gundersen ambulances, choppers

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Health care is the most recent industry being slammed with rising gas prices, but you won’t see that on your next bill. Gundersen Health system says rising gas prices are just one factor when it comes to ambulance and air fees.

The rising cost of gas is burning a hole in many wallets, and it’s affecting health care, too.

“We are feeling that in our budget,” said Stephanie Hill, program director for GundersenAIR.

“In a year, we put about 400,000 miles on our fleet of ambulances, and we use about 45,000 gallons of fuel,” said Eric Ellis, the operations supervisor of logistics and safety at Tri-State Ambulance.

“Medicare doesn’t take into account the price of gas when it comes to reimbursements and neither do other companies,” Ellis said.

Tri-State and AIR say the cost of fuel has increased 30 to 35 percent.

“We were probably about an average paying $5 per gallon of jet fuel, and now it’s up to $8 or $10 per gallon,” Hill said.

Both AIR and Tri-State respond to calls from rural areas, with those distances adding to the fuel costs.

“Some of our trips are 10 minutes and 25 minutes and some are an hour, so it varies greatly,” said Hill.

But Gundersen Health System says the rising cost of fuel does not mean the hospital will increase fees.

“The patients won’t see any change in their ambulance bill based on the cost of fuel,” Ellis said.

The increased cost of fuel will also not affect how far they travel to provide care.

“When one ambulance goes out, we all move our ambulances around to cover the surface area equally, and that’s something we’ll continue to do no matter the price of gas,” Ellis said.

Making sure health care can be found anywhere, despite the price at the pump.

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