Good Question: Would you pay $58 to travel one mile?

February 26, 2018 07:15 AM

A local man is asking why his ambulance bill is so high.

It's the subject of this week's Good Question with Pat Taney.

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On the surface, it sounds like a lot of money but the chief of the ambulance service in Canandaigua says don't be too quick to judge.

It all started back in October for Canandaigua resident Paul Leonard.

"I thought I was having a heart attack," Leonard said.

He called 911.

An ambulance from Canandaigua Emergency Squad responded.

"A few months later, I get this bill for $2,234.57," Leonard said.

Just over $58 was charged for what's labeled as mileage loaded.

"To go just over three blocks to the hospital," Leonard said.

Leonard lives on Foster Street and he was taken exactly 1.1. miles to nearby Thompson Hospital.

"Where does it all go because that seems like an awful lot of money for a short ride," Leonard said.

We went to the Chief of the Canandaigua Emergency Squad Matt Sproul for some answers.

Taney: Why such a high fee for a short distance?

Chief Sproul: The mileage loaded fee is what we charged based on a set rate. It helps pay for fuel, insurance, helps pay for brakes, wipers, anything that has to do with the ambulance itself.

Taney: But this was just over a mile. There's really all of that wear and tear on a short trip like that?

Chief Sproul: Yes and it ensures we have enough money to keep the ambulances running. The brakes always have to be replaced because it's an emergency vehicle and travels, sometimes, at a high rate of speed especially at different intervals. We have to make sure that the ambulance is in tip top condition with repairs and maintenance.

Taney: Who sets the prices and fees? Is it you guys, or do you follow a certain protocol set by the state? 

Chief Sproul: Every agency, like Canandaigua Emergency Squad, changes their own rates depending on their expenses.

Those expenses here at Canandaigua Emergency Squad are piling up.

Costs for equipment and supplies are skyrocketing.

Chief Sproul reminds people Canandaigua Emergency Squad is a not-for-profit agency. It receives no money from taxes and is not affiliated with the city. He says many years the agency loses, not earns money.

"There are some years where we're actually not getting by and there are some years where we make more to cover the years where we didn't." Sproul said.

The fees they charge and the donations they receive from the public are the only thing keeping them afloat.

Here, there's no CEO, not even a receptionist.

Chief Sproul does the paperwork, answers phones, and pays for birthday celebrations of employees out of his own pocket.

When it comes to the workers, half of the EMTs are volunteers, the others, who are paid, barely make minimum wage.

Chief Sproul doesn't disagree ambulance bills are hig,h but says without those fees, Canandaigua Emergency Squad wouldn't exist.

"What I want people to know is that they are paying for the services that are coming to them and to be made available to them seven days a week, 24 hours a days, 365 days a year," Sproul said.

A service which helped people like Leonard, who in the end did not have a heart attack but a virus. He is appreciative of the service he received from EMTs. His insurance ended up covering most of his bill, but he still thinks the cost was too high.

"It's something that I feel needs to be addressed because it's out of control," Leonard said.

No doubt, costs are high but again the chief says they are only charging what they need to keep running.

If you want to lower costs, one suggestion is to send donations to your volunteer ambulance company or become a volunteer. They are in desperate need of both.

If you are interested in learning more about helping the Canandaigua Emergency Squad, you can click here.


Pat Taney

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