By John P. Evans III
Being taken to the hospital in an ambulance is traumatic enough without having to worry about what it is going to cost and, to many people, where the money is going to come from to pay the bill.
Those issues can be resolved and Caroline residents can support their county emergency medical teams and personnel at the same time, by participating in the EMS ambulance subscription program.
“For $45 to $75 a year, a person can join the Caroline County Emergency Medical Services’ Ambulance Subscription plan, which guarantees that in an emergency, you will not be charged for ambulance transportation to the hospital,” said Bryan Ebling, director of the county’s EMS department. “Even if you have excellent insurance, most require a co-pay for ambulance service or don’t cover it at all.”
Ebling said ambulance trips usually cost more than $500 and can go as high as $1,000 depending on which hospital the person is being taken to and the level of medical service that is needed during the trip.
“The ones that are hurt the most by needing an ambulance are those on a fixed income or who cannot afford insurance. The cost of a trip to the hospital can be a real setback economically,” added Ebling. “By subscribing to the plan, you avoid having to pay the co-pay, if insured, or the higher cost if you don’t have insurance.”
The subscription plan costs just $45 a year for a family of one or two people or $75 per year for a family of three or more persons. Businesses can also subscribe to the plan for anywhere from $100 to $200 depending on the number of employees. Business subscriptions cover employees for ambulance service from the place of business only.
Emergency ambulance service is covered from a subscriber’s home or the place of an accident to the hospital, and most every hospital on the Eastern Shore or in Annapolis is covered.
Ebling said the plan also benefits the county’s EMS services and the local fire departments and ambulance services. The county has six ambulances, four of which are in service at any one time, and five of the county’s eight fire departments have ambulances. Transportation by any of those groups is covered by the plan.
Ebling said the money raised from subscriptions is divided among the fire departments and the county EMS department.
“The ambulance services benefit from the subscription plan. It brings in about $95,000 a year so even if you end up not needing the service, you are still helping to support the local fire companies and the county’s paramedics,” explained Ebling.
The county has been offering the subscription plan since 1994 though Ebling said there are still persons who are not aware one exists. Caroline County is one of the few Eastern Shore counties offering a subscription plan. Currently, there are 1,800 subscription plans in effect in the county.
“We’d like to see more people taking advantage of the subscription plan,” said Ebling. “It has been very successful over the years. I have heard many times from people who are subscribers about how glad they are that they have the plan.
“It pains me when I see people who aren’t part of the plan needing service because I know how much it’s going to cost them when, for a $45 yearly fee, they could have received the service without costs,” he added.
There is no limit to the number of times the subscription plan can be used to cover the cost of an ambulance transport, though Ebling said that EMS reserves the right to limit the number of transports if it is obvious that the plan is being abused.
“But people who subscribe to the plan, rarely abuse it,” said Ebling.
Ebling said coverage periods are renewed in May, though a person can subscribe to the plan at any time. The longer one waits, however, the shorter the period before needing to renew the plan.
To apply for the plan or learn more about how it works, call 410-479-8140 or you can register online at www.carolinemd.org and go to the emergency medical services section.