Medicare Cut Hurts Local Ambulance Service

A change in Medicare funding is expected to lead to reduced ambulance service in the Owens Valley.

At the Inyo Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Judd Symons of Symons Ambulance explained that the federal government had reduced the rates that Medicare pays for ambulance service by roughly 28% in super rural areas like Bishop and the Owens Valley.

The 28% cut in this important revenue, translates into over $100,000 a year for the business. Over half of the patients that use the ambulance service are on Medicare, so the cut in re-imbursement rates means reduced service. Symons told the board that in order to make cuts at his business, he couldn’t use a scalpel, but instead needed to use a bone saw.

The primary ambulance that is staffed with a paramedic and EMT will remain available twenty four hours a day seven days a week. Its the second back up ambulance often used for airport transfers and long distance transfers to hospitals outside of the region that will see cuts. Symons explained that the cuts may, in some cases, lead to longer response times.

This is not something I want to do, Symons explained.

9-1-1 Service for the City of Bishop remains the number one priority for Symons Ambulance crews, but without the back-up ambulance, there may be increased reliance on volunteer fire fighters in Bishop, Independence, and Big Pine to provide additional ambulance service.


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