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Ambulance Service Seeking Members
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After a lengthy ‘separation’ process that saw Escalon Community Ambulance and Oak Valley Hospital District part ways, all the systems are now in place for ECA to stand on its own. To that end, the ambulance service is once again seeking membership support from the community.

“Prior active members received their renewal notices in the mail,” explained ECA Chief Mike Pitassi. “And a post card mailer went out to the ambulance district.”

Those who join the community ambulance pay a family membership fee of $55 per year. Individual membership is $45.

“The benefit of membership occurs if you use ambulance service,” explained Pitassi. “Ambulance members are billed at retail rates but the service will accept insurance assignment. Insurance co-pays are written off under the plan.”

For example, a patient needing advanced life support would pay over $2,400 if they were not a member of Escalon Community Ambulance while the average non-Medicare eligible cost to members would be just over $530 and the Medicare-eligible member rates would be $355. Also, ambulance mileage billed at $50.40 per mile, with an average of 14 miles for a hospital trip, would come in at more than $700 for non-members, dropping to less than $120 for members.

“For those who have high deductible plans or have no health insurance, the plan offers a discount rate,” added Pitassi. “The discount is applied after all eligible insurances have been billed.”

Escalon Community Ambulance has its roots in the community, started more than a half-century ago. Today, Pitassi said, the service strives to provide for the emergency medical needs in the community, as well as responding to accident scenes and offering a paratransit service as well.

It took nearly 18 months to get everything in place to resume the membership service, said Pitassi, with separation from Oak Valley occurring in August 2012.

“We spent nearly a year doing applications for Medicare, Medi Cal, there were a whole lot of things that needed to be done,” Pitassi explained of meeting all the criteria to continue the service.

An attorney out of San Diego who specializes in medical issues reviewed the membership contract and helped ECA prepare its new plan. There is a new software system in place and though the membership drive is officially ‘on,’ Pitassi said they are also going to do a ‘full court press’ and look for members throughout the year, not just during the annual drive.

“We’ve met with the City Council, seeing if we can get information in the utility bills every other month, we’re talking to everyone we can,” Pitassi said. “We want to keep the plan in front of the public at all times. It’s critical, in the past one in five households in the community was a member, we need to increase that.”

Donations and memorials help, but the membership fees will bring in the bulk of the funding needed to keep the service going.

Membership prices hadn’t been adjust since 1989 and both have been raised by $20 for the new drive.

Along with Pitassi, who is a paramedic and the ECA chief, the staff includes paramedic/office manager Tina Van Houten, paramedic training/education manager Vanessa Herrero, paramedic interns Leah Robinson and Stephanie Merriam, EMT/vehicle maintenance Mark Bonham and EMT/Basic Life Support transit coordinator Karl Herrin.

Latest figures showed 620 memberships, with the goal set at 1,000 minimum.

For more information, contact Pitassi or anyone at Escalon Community Ambulance at 838-1351.