Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Borrego Springs - Your Life, Not Your Money


Last updated 12/10/2015 at 8:44am

No one should be faced with the old dilemma – “Your money or your life”.

Charges for emergency medical air transport have been increasing and are now in the range of $35,000 to $45,000 per transport depending upon the hospital to which one is transported from Borrego Springs. Uninsured patients are expected to pay the full charges. Insured patients are expected to pay deductibles and co-insurance that often amount to several thousand dollars or much more under high deductible plans. The magnitude of this financial exposure tends to scare people. Thus, the lack of more local emergency care services than our EMT service can provide is reported to be a reason some people do not visit or will not stay in Borrego Springs as long as they otherwise might.

Borrego Springs’ Fire Department provides excellent EMT services and emergency ground transportation to the community. But, there are limits to the services they are allowed to provide. And the Fire Department cannot take patients to our local clinic because it does not meet County requirements for emergency care. Thus, many patients are transported out of the Valley via ground ambulance in non-life threatening situations and by helicopter in life-threatening situations.

So, I am pleased to be on the Board of Directors of a local philanthropic organization that has decided to address the financial barrier to emergency medical air transport from Borrego Springs. The Borrego Valley Endowment Fund (BVEF) - better known by its former name, the Borrego Community Health Society - is a public, not-for-profit organization that manages a fund dedicated to improving health care and health-related services in the Borrego Valley.

The Borrego Valley Endowment Fund is taking action to make emergency medical air transport more financially accessible. BVEF will fund municipal policies with Mercy Air and REACH that relieves insured residents of out-of-pocket costs – the deductible and co-insurance that often amount to $3,000 or more. This municipal policy will take effect January 1, 2016.

BVEF has also negotiated 30% discounts on fees for individual policies with the parent companies of Mercy Air and REACH for insured non-residents, such as seasonal visitors or shorter term renters. The cost of such coverage will be $39 with Mercy Air and $35 with REACH per household per year. These policies cover transport on each company’s helicopters, but not on other helicopters. Because we cannot control which company’s helicopter will be dispatched, one must buy a policy with each company to be fully covered for helicopter transport. Nonetheless, for $74 per year a household can avoid thousands of dollars of exposure to the cost of emergency air transport. These individual policies and the municipal policy for insured residents will cover enrollees in any of the hundreds of markets in the U.S. that Mercy Air and REACH each service. These companies also have (more expensive) policy offerings for uninsured residents and non-residents.

The uninsured and those people wanting more comprehensive coverage might consider a policy offered through the Chamber of Commerce by MASA. While more expensive, it is more comprehensive. The policy with MASA may be an especially good fit for people who travel via RV or who travel in other countries.

See the full page of ads and announcements in this issue of The Sun about events to explain and answer questions about the municipal policy for insured residents and the policy options for non-residents.

Friday, December 18th all residents and visitors are invited to presentations at the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center. Two sessions will be held – one from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the second from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. BVEF will present the coverages available and answer questions. Representatives of Mercy Air, REACH and MASA will be available to answer questions specific to their services and to enroll seasonal visitors as well as uninsured residents or visitors in policies.

Saturday, December 19th from 10:00 AM until Noon a kick-off event will be held at the Borrego Springs Airport. Mercy Air and REACH will land helicopters and the Fire Department will bring an ambulance. The coverage for insured residents and the policy options for individuals will be explained. And, representatives of Mercy Air, REACH and MASA will be available to enroll seasonal visitors as well as uninsured residents or visitors in policies.

I hope most residents and non-residents will come to these events and help make Borrego Springs an even better, safer and more affordable place to live and visit.


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