Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Calling 911 in Dallas Might Cost You $911, In Some Cases

The subject of discussion on morning radio today in my neck of the woods concerned a proposal by the City of Dallas to require payment from patients with non-life-threatening injuries before they're loaded into an ambulance:
If you need an ambulance in Dallas, you may soon have to shell out some money up front before the paramedics will take you to the hospital.

Dallas city council members are talking about possibly having people with non life-threatening injuries pay before they're taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

Councilman Mitchell Rasansky proposed the idea because he says it makes sense for the city's bottom line. He says "Why should Dallas pay out several million dollars a year when the operator can simply ask if they have a credit card".

Again, this would apply only to those with non life-threatening injuries who obviously would be able to hand over their credit card.
This idea is still in the discussion phase at the Dallas City Council, but it seems to open up all kinds of worms: What if the person can't afford the ambulance (the bills have been known to be as high as $1000) but has no other way to the hospital? Should a decision like this really be made just to save the taxpayers money? Do we want our EMT's doubling as cashiers?

One caller this morning (who I believe used to work for an ambulance dispatch service) pretty much summed it up for me: All it would take is one person whose injuries didn't appear life-threatening to not get taken to the hospital and then die, and the lawsuit that would ensue would cost the city a lot more than paying for several hundred potentially "unnecessary" ambulance rides.

Now, if someone is abusing the system, there should be things in place to deal with that person. But doesn't this proposal seem a little harsh? Feel free to chime in using the comments.

This guy would qualify for the free ambulance ride, even though he could easily afford it on his own: I waited to post this until it was fairly clear that his injuries were not life-threatening, but I found it ironic that attorney Brian Loncar--best known for his commercials appealing to people who have been hurt in a car accident (especially one caused by the negligence of others)--was injured in a wreck over the weekend when he evidently failed to yield to a fire truck at an intersection.

This guy would definitely qualify for a free ambulance ride: It could be said that a Utah photographer got a little too involved with his work; he was taking pictures at the state high school track meet in Provo when he was speared in the leg by an errant javelin. (The kid who threw the javelin picked up another one and subsequently won the state title in his classification.)

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