San Diego turns to Uber to relieve high ambulance costs

Officials are looking at an alternative response model where non-emergency patients could take an Uber to an urgent care facility and get reimbursed by insurers

By EMS1 Staff

SAN DIEGO — EMS officials are looking to utilize taxis and Uber rides to help relieve high ambulance costs.

San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the new model would mean patients who call 911 and are not in an emergency situation could be reimbursed by insurers if they take a taxi or Uber to an urgent care facility.

The plan, which aims to discourage abuse of the 911 system, comes from high ambulance costs for the city and patients.

Last week, the city’s ambulance operator agreed to explore the new model after the city approved a 24 percent increase in the cost of an ambulance ride.

Stewart Gary, with consulting firm Citygate Associates, said an alternative model is needed to alleviate the 22 percent increase in 911 calls in the last four years because some insurers may refuse to pay the higher ambulance rate.

“In health care in America today, tragically 911 emergency medical services is the health care of last, first and only resort for many of your populations,” Gary said.

Anthem Health Insurance agreed to cover the alternative transportation modes in 2018 and Gary said he hopes other insurance companies follow suit.

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