By Roger Ball
Sun City West residents are beginning to purchase subscriptions to the Arizona Fire & Medical Authority’s new “Ambulance Membership” program.
The AFMA governing board heard a report on the program during its monthly meeting August 27, at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors auditorium, 205 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix.
Two authority members were present—Bob Ince, board clerk and South County Fire and Medical District representative, and Dawn Miller, board member and North County Fire and Medical District representative. Two other members participated remotely by telephone—David Wilson, board chairman, and Dick Cherry, board member. Both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Cherry represent NCFMD.
AFMA began selling ambulance subscriptions July 1, which would cover any ambulance transportation cost not covered by insurance. The annual premium is $75 per year, which covers all people living in the household.
Rob Helie, AFMA deputy chief in charge of emergency services, said 379 households had subscribed to the program from July 1 – Aug. 21, for a total income of $28,425. AFMA offers the subscription in Sun City West, Wittmann and Sun Lakes areas.
Dawn Miller, board member, complimented Chief Helie saying that was very good progress in such a short time.
Residents should check their insurance plans, Mr. Helie said, to determine if the subscription is worthwhile. Some insurance and Medicare supplemental plans cover all transportation costs, while others have a deductible or copay amounts or may restrict the number of covered transports during a certain period of time.
The annual fee covers all residents of a household for 12 months, regardless of how many ambulance trips are involved.
Mr. Helie said as the residents return for the winter he and others will make more presentations to various community groups.
In a related matter, the board approved a grant application for AFMA to participate in the model Medicate and Medicaid program providing alternate emergency transportation venues.
Mr. Helie told the board that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation developed a new emergency triage, treat and transport model it wants to test over the next five years. Because AFMA operates in communities heavily populated by Medicare recipients, Mr. Helie said it was a good choice to participate in the study. It is not yet known when agencies will be chosen.
The test plan will allow for three options for responding to medical transport agencies – transport to a hospital emergency department, transport to an urgent care center or treatment at the site using teleconferencing with a physician.
Medicare currently only pays for emergency transportation to hospital emergency departments. The study is to determine if Medicare can save money by having the alternative options for treatment.
Rob Biscoe, AFMA chief, said one advantage to AFMA is it would cut down the amount of down time EMS crews have due to busy emergency rooms that cause delays in unloading patients. Additionally, the plan will pay the current full amount for transport, even if the patient is only treated at the scene via teleconference with a physician.
Mr. Helie said AFMA currently has a contract with physicians who serve as medical director around the clock via voice communication. If AFMA is chosen to participate, Mr. Helie said the iPads currently used by EMS crews would be adapted to include video connections.
Mary Dalton, AFMA assistant chief, told the board members that the AFMA received an award for financial reporting achievement from the Government Finance Officers Association.
Ms. Dalton said much of the credit for the award should go to Diane Goke, AFMA finance manager.
The award cited a constructive spirit of full disclosure to clearly communicate the authority’s financial story.
The GFOC website listed only three fire districts in Arizona receiving the CAFR award.
Reporter Roger Ball can be contacted at email@example.com or 623-876-2523.