Ambulance agency sues Calif. city over monopolizing EMS services

The agency was denied permission to operate in Huntington Beach last year after the city stated it had exclusive rights to provide EMS services

The Orange County Register

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — AmeriCare MedServices, Inc. filed a lawsuit last week in federal court alleging Huntington Beach has wrongly monopolized the city’s emergency ambulance market.

In 1993, the City Council voted to allow the fire department to maintain and operate its own emergency ambulance system. Opponents at the time argued the city would be better served by competition among private companies. Since then, however, the city has been served by a generally well-regarded program which, according to the city’s website, transports up to 10,000 patients annually.

Last year, AmeriCare requested permission to operate in the city. City Attorney Michael Gates denied the company, arguing the city “has the exclusive right to provide emergency ambulance services within the city’s jurisdiction.”

Hence, the lawsuit. “But for the city’s monopolization of the market, AmeriCare and other private ambulance providers would have been placed in rotation and patients would have paid lower prices for faster and better service,” attorney Jarod Bona argues in the complaint.

Setting aside the legal merits of this particular lawsuit, at the very least it raises important issues.

In the county’s 2011-12 grand jury report, it was suggested that fire departments throughout the county “reevaluate their models for providing response for both fire and medical emergencies,” further adding that “privatizing the emergency medical response” should be considered. Huntington Beach responded that such recommendations weren’t warranted or weren’t reasonable.

Copyright 2016 The Orange County Register

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