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Fire Department to Offer Insurance

Starting in April, the city Fire Department will join a host of other Southern California cities, including Anaheim, Huntington Beach and Antioch, in offering residents insurance subscriptions for paramedic service.

Most insurance companies do not fully cover the cost of emergency ambulance bills--which can be about $600 per ride. Under the new system, residents who pay $39 annually would receive unlimited free paramedic services for their household.

Ventura Fire Chief Dennis Downs introduced the new subscription program during a review of the city’s new paramedic transport program, which began operating last July. Rather than using a private company--like Med-Trans--the city now operates three ambulances, 24 hours a day, dedicated to emergency response.

Since the changeover, emergency response time has dropped by two minutes, and patients’ costs have decreased significantly, Downs said.

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For example, if someone is in a severe automobile accident requiring emergency transport services, the city program would save them close to $300, Downs said. This is because a private company charges for services provided on site, including splints, monitors or ice packs, but all of that would be included in the city’s basic service cost, Downs said.

The total cost of the program for 1996-97 is $952,790, which includes a $175,870 loan from the city. That money should be fully repaid by June 30, Downs said.

In another progressive step, the city has set up mutual aid agreements with surrounding ambulance companies to strengthen existing resources in times of crisis. Downs noted that these were the first such signed agreements in Ventura County’s history.


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