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Court Authorizes Higher Ambulance Fee For Out-of-State Visitors, Opening Revenue Door

| July 23, 2014

Out-of-towners may pay more for ambulance rescues in South Florida, opening the way for other cash-strapped counties to apply the same standard. (© FlaglerLive)

Out-of-towners may pay more for ambulance rescues in South Florida, opening the way for other cash-strapped counties to apply the same standard. (© FlaglerLive)

Rejecting arguments that the policy is unconstitutional, a state appeals court said Wednesday that the city of Miami can charge an extra $100 when its rescue crews transport non-residents to hospitals for emergency care.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned a circuit judge’s ruling in a class-action case that contended the extra charge is an unauthorized tax and violates constitutional equal-protection and intrastate-travel rights. The named plaintiff in the case, St. Petersburg resident Cheryl K. Haigley, was taken to a hospital in 2010 by the Miami Fire-Rescue Department after she fell and was injured while in the city.

A three-judge panel pointed, in part, to property taxes that Miami residents pay to help operate the emergency services and said requiring visitors to pay an extra fee “furthers the city’s interest of being able to continue providing emergency transportation services to everyone in need of the services, regardless of whether the person is a resident or a non-resident.”

“The city’s residents, users and non-users of emergency medical transportation services alike, more than make up for the additional $100 surcharge charged non-resident users by contributing a far greater amount to the city’s overall emergency services budget,” said the 24-page ruling, written by Judge Leslie Rothenberg and joined by judges Vance Salter and Thomas Logue. “The base rate paid by individuals using the city’s emergency medical transportation services is insufficient to cover the total cost, and the city could have properly determined that an extra $100 was necessary to offset that additional cost since non-residents do not contribute through the payment of ad valorem (property) taxes.”

Miami has a schedule of charges for people it transports to hospitals that can vary based on factors such as treatment needs and mileage. The ruling said Haigley was charged $445, with $330 of that for basic life-support services, $15 for mileage and $100 because she was a non-resident.

The appeals court said Miami received about $42,000 from the non-resident charges in 2010.

Part of the case focused on a question about whether the charges are a user fee or a tax. But the appeals court dismissed arguments that the charges are an unauthorized type of tax.

“It is undisputed that the city provided Haigley with a particular governmental service,” the ruling said. “The city’s Fire-Rescue Department transported Haigley to a medical facility for emergency treatment. The charge assessed for this service was assessed solely to Haigley, not to a non-user of the emergency medical transportation services. Thus, the $445 the city charged Haigley was in exchange for a particular governmental service.”

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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7 Responses for “Court Authorizes Higher Ambulance Fee For Out-of-State Visitors, Opening Revenue Door”

  1. Charles Ericksen Jr says:

    What’s next??

    Restaurants charging more for meals to non-residents
    A premium on gasoline for out of State residents
    The State of Florida charging for juvenile justice expenses and Medicaid, based upon population of one’s County in comparison to the States population, versus actual usage ( woops, they are already doing this)
    Florida Counties charging more than the maximum millage rate on property taxes, by implementing additional fees, for fire, library, hospitals and other services ( woops, they are doing this already, also)
    Lawmakers in Tallahassee, not being subject to the “sunshine law’, but requiring such of the cities and counties, ( again, already being done)

  2. Seminole Pride says:

    Agree. All services provided to non-residents of Florida should be more. As a resident my taxes are paying and providing these services. I would like to see gasoline, food, clothing, and entertainment to be considered in some kind of tourist or non-residential tax.

  3. Retired FF says:

    This type of charge is far overdue. Cities that are big tourist attractions such as St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Orlando are burdened with having to provided a level off service not only for the tax paying citizens, but also the droves of tourists that visit those locations. Those that pay taxes should not be burdened with the expense of providing for those that do not pay taxes. Don’t think that the taxes they pay on hotels, restaurants and souvenirs stay in the cities they are paid in. The very large majority of those tax dollars go to Tallahassee and never make it back where they were generated.

  4. confidential says:

    Good way to kill the number one industry in Florida aka Tourism!
    Instead the Florida government needs to do, is actually stop using our tax revenue to subsidize the Forbes list of rich owners like Nascar, Carnival and the rest of the cruise lines paying no tax and wearing our infrastructure and end the tax loopholes subsidies and refunds to the oil companies contamination our gulf waters ruinning our environment and fisheries. I already know winter snow birds switching FL for AZ and CA. How more retarded could be to over tax tourism and kill the goose that lays the golden eggs!

  5. confidential says:

    Pass this tourist new tax and be sure that lawsuits will ensue for you all to enjoy. Did yall forget still about 20 years ago when people moved to Florida had to pay outreagous tax fee I think was around $500 or more per car depending the age and model, that new comers brought with the families moving to Florida? That went to court thanks to some “brave hearts” that I took my hat out too, and the courts declared unconstitutional the tax and FL had to reimburse the newcomers.
    Have yall asked your Florida local governments what do they do with the taxes we already pay..? Do it may be heading for a shock.

  6. Leo says:

    This is so wrong! Lets charge out of state people more money because they are visiting? Just because we pay taxes for that stuff as well? It’s not right. Does that mean that if “we” are visiting another state/city, should we be charged more also? My family travels alot and that wouldn’t be fare to anyone. God forbid there’s an emergency, we would have to deal with not only the emergency but also now being over charged because we are “tourist”? This just does not sit well with me.

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