As the old saying goes, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. The Pennsylvania Legislature has an opportunity to do something about both.
Ambulance service is facing a financial crisis in many areas of Pennsylvania. Here in Elizabethtown, Northwest Emergency Medical Services is seeking increases in funding from the 12 municipalities they serve, going from a total of $122,000 a year now to $472,000 a year. They need this money to pay their expenses, since payments from health insurance companies frequently do not cover their expenses. And not all patients they serve have health insurance. Also, for insured patients, the insurance companies often send checks to the patients instead of to the ambulance company, and the money doesn’t always get turned over.
And Northwest EMS is far from alone. A great many ambulance companies end up forced to merge with neighbors or to shut down, causing a neighboring ambulance company’s service area to expand. As service areas expand, response time increases. And that means more and more patients who could have been saved will die.
The amount of money needed to keep ambulance companies running smoothly, though, is not all that large when divided up. Mount Joy Township Supervisor Debra Dupler noted at her township’s meeting on Monday, May 20, that the amount sought by Northwest EMS would amount to $4.63 per township resident.
The problem is that the ambulance companies are relying on the good will of individuals to purchase memberships and make donations, as well as the good will of municipal boards to contribute.
And there are a great many people who will refuse to buy memberships or make donations, as well as some municipal boards that will refuse to appropriate tax money, preferring to freeload off their neighbors.
The solution for this is for the Pennsylvania Legislature to recognize that this vital public service deserves consistent public support. If taxes must be raised, so be it. Increasing our tax burdens by $4.63 per person per year, or even $10 per person per year, will be well worth it to ensure timely ambulance service. The tax money we might save without this action will do us no good if we’re dead.
The preceding editorial is the opinion of The Elizabethtown Advocate. Other opinions on this page are those of individual contributors. The Advocate aims to give its readers a wide variety of opinions.