During Monday’s meeting of the Denison City Council, an ordinance was passed giving Denison Fire Rescue the ability to pass a bill of service along to area residents’ insurance companies for the services rendered.
With the recent passing of an ordinance that authorizes Denison Fire Rescue to bill insurance companies for certain services rendered, insurance companies have answers on how it will affect policies and their clients.
According to the ordinance the fire department will bill between $487 up to $677 for vehicle accidents just for the response. That doesn’t include an additional $1,461 in case of extrication or the $448 for creating a landing zone in the event of a helicopter is called to the scene.
If a hazardous materials are involved there could be additional charges ranging from $784 up to $6,608. If the HAZMAT team takes longer than three hours to clean up the mess they can charge $336 per hour per HAZMAT team.
No matter the call the department could bill $448 per hour for an engine, $560 per hour for a truck and $336 for miscellaneous equipment.
The department could also charge a first responder fee of $350 per incident as well as well as $308 per hour for fire investigation. A chief response fee of $280 per hour could be added for set-up and command for an incident.
Insurance agent David Bayless with Bayless Hall Insurance said his concern is over what the city will consider the base service and what services will be billed.
Here are five things to know about the new ordinance that went into effect Monday night.
1. The insurance companies are regulated
The insurance companies have to submit claims to a state agency that approves, denies or sets payment caps, Bayless said. Right now, it is too early to tell what a claim would look like and how the state will respond.
Still, Bayless said he doesn’t expect much in the way of companies denying coverage. He does expect them to follow state and federal laws regarding limits.
2. Impact on renters is unclear
It is unclear how the insurance companies will handle a claim on an apartment or other rental property.
Bayless said factors that come into play would be rental insurance as well as property owner’s insurance. Once liability is determined, it will be up to the insurance companies to determine who has to pay for what in those instances.
Cause of fire is a key element in those situations.
3. Most policies cover the expenses
Most home owners and auto insurance policies cover emergency coverage. But, keep in mind, this does depend on the policy and the situation, Bayless said.
While it shouldn’t negatively impact most people as most policies have provisions to cover costs associated with a fire already, there has yet to be a case in their area to serve as a reference for what will or will not happen.
4. The city can bill individuals
Denison City Manager Jud Rex said the goal is to bill insurance companies directly.
However, the ordinance does allow the city to send a bill directly to the responsible parties in certain instances. and the ordinance also allows the city to bill each incident per person at various pay levels, as well as, for itemized products used.
5. More to come
Bayless has talked to other insurance companies in the area, and the biggest question remains over what constitutes a basic service.
“Since every incident is different, it is impossible to put one standard on a billing scenario,” Denison Fire Chief Gregg Loyd said at the beginning of the week. “If the incident has insurance coverage that would cover the service, then that would generate a bill for services provided.”
It is still too early to tell how the ordinance might impact local insurance rates. Bayless believes there are still a lot of variables at play that need to be considered.
“This is the first time I have seen a city take action that has caused any kind of concern,” Bayless said.
He said his company has an office in Bonham and he is keeping an eye on that situation to see how it unfolds. Bonham recently instituted a program similar to the one in Denison.
“Our intent is not to make it a money maker but a money recovery beyond what is normally covered through the tax dollar,” Loyd said at the beginning of the week.