Colorado drivers could be asked to pay about $10 extra on their annual car registration renewals in order to subsidize ambulance services under a proposed change to the state’s new car insurance system.
First responders and hospitals say they’ve been losing about $100 million a year since the state abandoned its no fault car-insurance system nearly three years ago. The initial burden of paying for medical treatment switched to health insurers but some drivers don’t have health insurance or they don’t have enough to cover the cost of care.
Trauma care providers have been hoping lawmakers would require car insurers to pick up the cost of emergency care to prevent ambulance companies from having to cut back service or close because of the unpaid bills.
But with car insurers saying that would increase rates by $145 a year for safe, middle-aged drivers, Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, said Tuesday it might be better to build up a fund to subsidize ambulance companies by charging all drivers when they renew their registration each year.
The state already includes $1 in each registration fee for the trauma system and charging an extra $10 would bring in an extra $44 million a year, he said. It would only cover ambulance providers and not hospital emergency rooms, at least until the fund could be built up.
Hagedorn said he hasn’t decided whether the fund should only pay for care of people who aren’t insured or whether ambulance companies could submit a claim for any bills that haven’t been paid after a certain length of time.
Some Democrats questioned whether it would be fair to charge all drivers the $10 since many of them do have health insurance. But Hagedorn said everyone, regardless of whether they have health insurance or not, wants to make sure that there is an ambulance available when they have an emergency.
Under the state’s previous no-fault system, auto insurers covered medical costs immediately and their payouts were usually more generous than under the current tort system. Auto insurers don’t have to make payments until they determine which driver caused the accident.
Once fault is determined in an accident, Hagedorn said the state would be able to recoup those costs from the insurance company of the driver at fault.