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Rural Colorado Ambulances Taking Financial Hit

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ambulanceA major concern when you’re involved in any sort of serious accident is how fast medical care will arrive. How long do you have to wait for that ambulance?

Unfortunately, in tough economic times, emergency services throughout Colorado are taking a hit just like other public services. Despite cost cutting measures, emergency medical services haven’t seen the worst of it yet. A sizable portion of the runs made by ambulances in rural Colorado are either covered by Medicaid or are for the uninsured. This becomes problematic when you consider that Morgan County, for example, only recoups 7 cents on the dollar for the Medicaide trips and often nothing at all for those not covered by insurance.

A number of creative solutions are currently in the works in counties across Colorado. Micheal Booth, a reporter for The Denver Post, notes a number of them in his recent piece on the subject. In Morgan County, for instance, they have been using SUVs as emergency vehicles:

Morgan County ambulance director Bob Walter and paramedic Joe King choose their safer and cheaper converted Chevy Suburban ambulance for the slip-and-fall call and many other runs. Walter pioneered full-service SUV ambulances for this part of Colorado in one of his many penny-pinching efforts to preserve the endangered ambulance company.

They get blown around less than the regular boxy ambulances, can perform all life-saving functions for one patient and save significant money on the Morgan County service’s average of six trips a day.

‘We’re out of ideas, and we’re out of cuts,’ Walter said. ‘In a year, we’re out of funding.’

In Summit County, they have already reduced the number of ambulances on the road during winter. The county is also considering a property tax to help cover their $3.9 million annual ambulance cost.

As we trudge through the snow to our cars, winter accident alerts like this one yesterday are a common back-beat to our travels on the road. The weather increases the possibility of getting into a car accident, even if there are no other drivers on the road. Let us hope a solution is found to these financial issues, so that we can always rely on ambulances and other emergency services in the case of an accident.

Image by MSVG, used under its Creative Commons license


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Sally from Denver, Colorado

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