CLEVELAND (WJW) – It’s been an urgent need and Cleveland city leaders are finally answering the call.

As of July 1, for the first time in nearly two decades, new rates billed to insurers for ambulance runs will be between $750 and $1,300. That’s more than double the previous base rates that were between $350 and $500.

“I would certainly say this rate hike is long overdue. Our rates haven’t been updated in 20-years and obviously everything costs a little bit more to say the very least. So our rates need to reflect inflation,” Ward 17 Cleveland City Councilman Charles Slife said.

Mileage rates also boosted from $10 to $16 per mile.

Councilman Slife said the old rates were a steal for private insurance companies who were willing to pay more than the Medicare reimbursement rate.

“We weren’t even charging enough to get the full reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid from the federal government, so we were quite literally leaving money on the table,” said Slife.

The Cleveland Association of Rescue Employees, the union which represents EMS workers, had unsuccessfully lobbied for an increase under the prior administration, saying the city was losing millions of dollars in revenue to invest in the betterment of the division.

Union president Mark Barrett said, “We’d like mental health paramedics, we’d like community paramedics, we’d like to give blood. We can’t do any of that unless there’s paramedics to do it.”

Barrett saying the rate increase will also help to retain EMS workers.

“We used to pay over $10 an hour more than privates and now they’re paying $3 or $4 more than us which is absurd,” Barrett said.

Barrett said they often lose several people a week to the private sector, suburbs and hospital systems.

Currently, there are roughly 250 staff members with a target of 330 EMS employees.