Official broaches ‘potential discrimination’ on ambulance care

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Paramedics prepare to take the driver of a black GMC pick up in an ambulance to a local hospital after the driver suffered moderate injuries in a collission with a white pick up on Fairview Road near Fallon Road.

The behavioral health director warned county supervisors Tuesday about lacking ambulance coverage for non-acute medical issues that are potentially life threatening. He indicated his agency has plans to fund the shortfalls that are often causing patients to be turned away.
Behavioral Health Director Alan Yamamoto spoke during Tuesday’s board meeting and underscored that patients – typically those covered by Medi-Cal – are being left without ambulance transportation for what are considered non-acute problems.
Yamamoto warned that some issues falling under this classification have potential to be life-threatening medical problems, while psychiatric care generally falls under the non-acute designation as well, he said.
He referred to “potential discrimination” against Medi-Cal and indigent patients because the county’s contract with American Medical Response does not cover transportation for non-acute matters.
He said one of the issues is that the ambulance transportation company does not receive high enough reimbursements to cover the costs for those trips.
“They cannot get reimbursement levels from Medi-Cal for that level of transportation,” he said.
Yamamoto also mentioned how Santa Clara County has switched to Rural/Metro Corp. for ambulance services and away from AMR, so there is less of an ability for overlap in geographic coverage.
“We can’t do anything about that particular problem,” he said.
Yamamoto, though, indicated plans to use behavioral health funds to offset the lacking reimbursements from Medi-Cal. He said he had calculated a cost estimate, but did not want to share it Tuesday. He hopes to share that additional cost with Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, he said.Look back for more.

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