PE Squad Care Call Is Coming

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, October 28, 2010

PRINCE EDWARD – Prince Edward County Rescue Squad is offering those who could use transport services at some point a security blanket of sorts.

Mailings for Squad Care membership were expected to go out in the coming days.

At an annual cost of $25 for participating members, Squad Care can protect from out-of-pocket ambulance service medical expenses. Squad Care membership covers the uninsured portion of PE Rescue Squad services for medically necessary ambulance transportation to the hospital and includes any costs for co-insurance and the deductible not covered by insurance.

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“…The cost of Squad Care is the same as it was the day we started it and we've been doing it for close to ten years,” Squad President Bill Hogan told The Herald. “We considered increasing it, but with the economy the way it is and people without…jobs, we feel it's more important right now to try to make that benefit available to the citizens and keeping it the same cost as we can.”

The more that join, Hogan also said, the longer it can stay at that cost.

“It covers the 20 percent that Medicare and insurance doesn't…pay. It covers that, but if you don't have enough people in it, it can't cover it but so long,” Hogan said.

They have approximately 1,500-1,600 households in Prince Edward utilizing it this year and are kicking off the 2011 campaign. For those who are signing up for the first time, they get Squad Care benefits from the time they sign up to the end of 2011. Those signed on already would see an extension to the end of 2011.

“It's a benefit that if more people took hold of, it would greatly help everybody,” Hogan said.

The first priority of Squad Care funds is to keep training up to date. From there, Hogan cites, he and the treasurer traditionally try to hang onto the funds as long as they can in case they have an emergency on equipment, such as equipment failures.

Four years ago, defibrillators were so old, he cited, there were no longer parts for them. They ended up purchasing five new units, borrowing the money and using Squad Care funds to pay a portion of the cost.

They have also applied for grants over the years for projects, too (which can include matching funds) and they can tap into the Squad Care funds to meet changing state mandates that arise.

He noted it would help the squad's finances, being able to keep their equipment updated and, in general make finances better.

According to Squad numbers, 2,632 calls were run in 2009 with an average of seven calls per day. Consider when the organization started in 1969 by the Jaycees with two ambulances, they ran 487 total calls that first year, or 1.3 calls per day.

Today, the squad has five ambulances, a heavy crash truck, utility pick-up, utility trailer, mass casualty trailer with supplies to treat 100 and a medic first responder vehicle.

The Squad has roughly between 30-35 full-time members counting the contributions of college students; without them, Hogan cited, it's about 12-15 people responding to calls.

The Squad has a paid two-person crew (part-time workers) during the daytime to run calls (Hogan estimated that 40 percent of their calls are run during the daytime) available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and relies on volunteers for the balance.

Call volumes remain fairly constant; most months there are over 200 calls, according to Hogan. The service area includes about 12 miles into Cumberland County, a sizable chunk of Prince Edward, and very small portions of Amelia and Nottoway.

Someone participating in Squad Care three years and uses the service one time is about breaking even, according to Hogan.

A basic response call is about $380 (though they can run higher depending on service provided). Assuming that someone has insurance or Medicare, 80 percent of that is covered, leaving a cost of about $75. The individual wouldn't be billed for that 20 percent.

Still, though it still costs to run calls, they don't receive any reimbursement for a sizeable chunk.

Whether someone is enrolled or not or can pay they continue to provide emergency transport services for those in need.

Household membership covers an immediate family (spouses, minor children or parents) living in the same household listed in the application. Squad Care is not insurance and the squad claims payments from the enrollee's insurance or third party agency to cover transport costs.

Hogan noted that they are a blessed squad in a lot of ways, citing the support of the community and elected officials.