Paramedics offer cost-cutting options


County of Mono could save about $2.8 million

Mono County’s much-loved but expensive county paramedic program might get a little less expensive after the paramedics offered a series of cost-cutting measures Tuesday, May 14.

The steps, outlined by Rick Mitchell, president of the paramedics, will not impact the service itself. According to Mitchell they have the potential to save about $2.8 million—the amount the county supplements the program this year out of its general fund.

“We think these changes could carry the program 10 to 15 years ahead,” he said.

The issue came up last year when the previous board of supervisors decided to crack down on what it said was an unacceptable rate of cost increase of the program, which is funded by the county’s general fund, a special 2002 voter-approved tax that funnels some transient occupancy taxes into the paramedic program, and, revenue recovery from the program.

The supervisors asked the paramedics for their ideas about how to make the program less expensive.

Ongoing negotiations with the paramedic’s union are also on the table.

Mitchell said the group focused on two things; one, increase the amount of revenue collected by the program and two, look at organizational and administrative changes that might be less expensive.

The cost recovery proposals included such things as; increased cost recovery for services offered (such as updating the billing structure for drugs for victims, or helping the county public health department vaccinate for the flu); a resident subscription fee that allowed residents to pay a $75 fee as a kind of insurance, should the paramedics be needed; an increase in the amount of revenues from Prop. 172  (the money funneled now to the county under this “first responder” proposition goes to the county district attorney’s office and the county sheriff’s department, according to Mitchell) and a possible $2 voluntary fee added to some lift tickets.

The organizational changes could include such things as more use of reserve paramedics, using a lower cost or “BLS” ambulance that transports only lower-risk or lightly injured patients, and creating a Fire/Paramedic District, he said.

The county supervisors commended Mitchell and the paramedics for their effort on the issue and said they would take the recommendations under serious consideration.