CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. — A longstanding partnership between ambulance services American Medical Response (AMR) and Mercy Flights in Josephine County has ended, both organizations confirmed on Wednesday. For customers in the area who previously subscribed to both jointly, the result could be extra costs in the event of a medical emergency.
Private ambulance services can be extremely costly for people in rural areas. The AMR and Mercy Flights relationship offered an alternative to paying exorbitant out-of-pocket costs — subscribing to both services through an annual subscription fee. In the event of emergency, no matter which company provided transport, that fee would cover the cost.
Illinois Valley Fire District's Chief Hoke broke the news on Wednesday that this would no longer be the case.
"I have been advised that AMR has terminated their relationship with Mercy Flights on the Paramed program. What this means is new subscribers to Paramed starting on 1 July will only cover ground ambulance transport. A separate subscription for air transport will have to be with Mercy Flights," Chief Hoke said.
Chief Hoke indicated that current subscribers to the joint service would have their subscriptions honored until the expiration date.
While Josephine County residents can still subscribe to both services, they will now have to do so separately — paying an annual subscription to both AMR and Mercy Flights. At this juncture, the price for each remains the same as before.
AMR is now partnering with REACH Air Medical Services, based in Sacramento. It was unclear on Wednesday whether a Paramed subscription (AMR and REACH) would cost the same going forward as it does at present.
Once REACH begins operating in the area, residents will either need to subscribe to both Paramed and Mercy Flights or risk having to pay out-of-pocket expenses if they happen to receive medical transit from a company to which they are not subscribed.
"Here are some cost facts. Ground ambulance transport from the Illinois Valley is over $1,500 from AMR. Air transport by Mercy is around $20,000. Air transport by REACH is over $45,000," Chief Hoke said. "Having a subscription takes care of the out of pocket expenses."
According to Chief Hoke, Mercy Flights provides 24-hour coverage. At present, REACH has only 12-hour daytime helicopter coverage.
A Mercy Flights representative underlined on Wednesday that they still serve and will always serve the people of Josephine County. This is a developing story, and NewsWatch 12 will continue looking into the details as they emerge.