West Covina to Offer Ambulance Insurance


 
 

Jennifer McLain | | Wednesday, February 25, 2009


WEST COVINA -- When resident Ingrid Geibel got in a car accident and needed an ambulance to take her to the hospital, the last thing on her mind was how much it would cost.

Fortunately for Geibel, she survived the crash and then found out that insurance covered all of her ambulance bills.

But many are not as lucky.

For the uninsured and even insured, a ride to the hospital via an ambulance can cost up to $1,600, said Geibel, a health insurance worker who handles insurance claims.

But for those who participate in a new program being implemented in West Covina, residents won't have to pay for these high costs.

On a 3-2 vote, the City Council approved last week a voluntary ambulance fee that charges $48 a year per household.

Under the program, participants who pay the annual fee to cover ambulance transportation costs to the hospital would not be responsible for any out-of-pocket costs.

Fire Chief Paul Segalla called the program a win-win: it serves to protect residents from costly fees and produces extra revenue for the city at a time when funding is hard to find.

It is estimated that the program could generate as much as $200,000 a year. The city currently bills patients directly for paramedic services. In 2006-07, West Covina's ambulance revenue was nearly $1.6 million.

"Under this voluntary program, any West Covina resident can protect their entire household from the expenses associated with emergency ambulance service by paying a $48 annual subscription fee," according to the city's Feb. 17 staff report.

But not everyone supports the program. Council members Sherri Lane and Mike Touhey voted against it.

While Touhey said he supports the concept, there were ambiguities in the program, he said. Among them was how many people per household could be covered under the $48 a year, and how the program provides coverage for those with different types of medical insurance.

"I am concerned that we could potentially start charging for all the services, and I am concerned that this is slippery slope," Touhey said.

Segalla said the program serves as a type of supplemental type of insurance, but he is concerned that, "those who really need the program won't take advantage of it."

Several cities in the San Gabriel Valley, including Arcadia, La Verne, Downey and Alhambra offer this service, though participation is generally less than 10 percent in each city. West Covina is counting on 4 percent of the population to participate in order to generate nearly $200,000 annually.

La Verne voters in 1980 passed a measure that allowed the city to bill them $1.75 a month on their utility bills to pay for the paramedic services. Today, that amount has increased to $4 a month - or $48 a year.

"Its intent was to subsidize the paramedic bill," said La Verne Fire Department Chief John Breaux. The measure brings in nearly $650,000 annually, and is applied to the city's nearly $2 million annual paramedic budget.

In Alhambra, the program was implemented nearly 20 years ago. Participation has staled over the past few years, which is why there has been an increased effort by the fire department to recruit more members, said Fire Chief Bruce Stedman.

In 2006-07, Alhambra only had 2,174 participants, which represents about 2 percent of the population. In the past six months, they have nearly doubled that figure, Stedman said.

"This is such an important service to our residents, and we are trying to get as many people to participate in it as we can," Stedman said.

Cities such as Covina or Rosemead that contract with Los Angeles County Fire Department do not have the option of such a fee. County fire stations rely on private ambulance companies.

West Covina's program will be formally adopted in March.




Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Leadership and Professionalism, Operations and Protcols

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Four Killed in New Mexico Medical Plane Crash

Crash near fairgrounds claims patient and crew of three.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Involved in Crash

Odessa ambulance and car collide during response.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Las Vegas Fire, AMR Reach New Deal

Tentative agreement reached over ambulance calls.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Fire Damages Several Homes in California Earthquake

Four homes destroyed and others damaged after quake rattles Napa.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

New Mexico Air Ambulance Crash

NTSB investigates crash that killed four.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Where in the World of EMS is A.J.? Scranton

JEMS Editor-in-Chief visits his hometown of Scranton, Pa.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Over 100 Injured in California Earthquake

172 patients treated at Napa hospital after 6.0-magnitude earthquake.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >