EMS levy essential for quality local ambulance service

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Most people spend thousands of dollars a year on insurance — whether for their cars, homes or health. Yet, nobody expects (or wants) to experience the disaster insurance is purchased to cover.

But we all know that insurance is a wise investment and necessary.

Walla Walla County has a first-class ambulance service staffed by highly trained paramedics. Few cities and counties the size of Walla Walla have emergency medical responders and equipment of this caliber.

It’s possible because the taxpayers of Walla Walla County have approved the emergency medical services, or EMS, levy for the past 24 years.

The levy imposes a property tax of 50 cents per $1,000 of a property’s value. The levy brings in about $2.5 million a year to cover the costs that Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance won’t pay. Medicare typically covers about half of the actual cost of an ambulance run while Medicaid covers a mere 10 to 15 percent.

The EMS levy is essentially like paying for an insurance policy to guarantee excellent ambulance service in your community.

Without the EMS levy funds, the ambulance service would have to be reduced significantly putting everyone in Walla Walla County at a greater risk of dying in a medical emergency. The advanced treatments paramedics are trained to perform save lives.

The EMS levy is up for renewal every six years, which is why the levy is on the ballot Feb. 11.

The EMS tax will not go up. It will be the same 50 cents per $1,000 it has been for years.

The levy money is used for all emergency medical services in the county, not just those administered by the city of Walla Walla Fire Department. Nor does it just fund paramedics. It also helps fund training for emergency medical technicians and emergency medical responders.

The levy funds are divided between the Walla Walla and College Place fire departments and the eight county rural fire districts. The money is distributed based on each district’s assessed property value, population and volume of calls.

The emergency medical services in Walla Walla County are needed every day. In 2012, for example, 5,289 ambulance runs were made by the city of Walla Walla EMS personnel resulting in 3,287 medical transfers.

Approving this levy is essential. We urge approval of the EMS levy.

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