To reduce ambulance costs for city residents, The Palo Alto Fire Department launched its new Palo Alto FireMed subscription service.
The program, announced in a city press release on Monday, allows residents to pay a monthly fee, starting at $8, with their regular utility bill. The program allows participants to receive ambulance rides covered by the Fire Department in the event of a medical emergency.
Palo Alto Fire Department Chief Geoffrey Blackshire said the program’s purpose is to eliminate potentially stressful and costly out-of-pocket ambulance fees during crises.
“The idea is to give people the peace of mind in an emergency situation that they have the support they need,” Blackshire said. “The principle behind it is creating a low-cost service where people don’t have to pay out-of-pocket expenses.”
The program also provides a plan for families and businesses to cover additional family members or employees with an increased fee of between $20 and $1,000 depending on the number of people on the plan.
Blackshire said the increased payments will likely go towards improving the Fire Department’s service.
“The increased (revenue from) the plan might go towards training or new equipment, so (this program is) helping us improve our service to the community,” Blackshire said.
Because Palo Alto’s Fire Department is the only one in Santa Clara County offering emergency ambulance services, Blackshire said Palo Alto took inspiration from other programs in California when designing Palo Alto FireMed.
“Cities like Huntington Beach and Anaheim have been doing exactly this for (years), and it has been an additional resource for their communities,” Blackshire said. “We’re the only department locally to offer an ambulance service, so we’ve looked at other cities which offer a similar service.”
Blackshire said the department also relied on feedback from residents when determining the structure and base pricing of the individual plan.
“We did a focus group with residents to see what’s appealing and what they would pay for,” Blackshire said. “Our model is based on feedback from that group and what they would want to see.”
Blackshire said the Fire Department will continue to look at community feedback to determine the future of the program.
“Looking at (the cities) we based it on … people are willing to continue to pay for the service,” Blackshire said. “The goal is to serve the community, so if people think the service is not valuable, then we might start to reassess. Based on what we’ve seen, though, it seems like it will be something that continues to benefit residents.”