10 December 2013

Private ambulance service closes, giving you what you ideologically pay for

When a business owner can't make a profit, they close up shop. And in a libertarian paradise where government services are outsourced to private, for-profit third parties, that means ambulance companies may close up shop, too:
A private ambulance service that transported more than a half-million patients a year in six states abruptly shut down without explanation, leaving dozens of cities and towns scrambling for medical transportation options Monday without a word of warning.

First Med EMS, based in Wilmington, N.C., served hospitals and other medical facilities in more than 70 municipalities in Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. It operated under the names TransMed, Life Ambulance and MedCorp[.]
It's not clear whether the outsourcing deals required First Med EMS to give anyone notice that they were leaving the medical transportation biz. After all, there's no law saying that any ordinary for-profit concern has to tell their customers that they're not going to open their doors from one day to the next. Sure, you have to officially wind down the business and pay your last rounds of taxes and settle up outstanding accounts and bills. But you can take a long time doing it, if you like, or even declare bankruptcy and drag the process on for years. And it's not as if you have to alert the media or call the county to put the government on notice, because mostly, it's nobody's business.
Medical facilities said the shutdown took them by surprise, too, and at least one county -- Bertie County, N.C. -- declared a state of emergency at noon Monday. The county board of commissioners said in a statement that it would pursue legal claims against First Med.
Oops. But I do wonder what kind of contract was in place. And I wonder what rhetoric was used to convince the county that outsourcing its ambulance services was a good idea. Operating a medical transport service isn't the same as running a taxi company. And libertarian paradises are all fun and games until people can't get to their dialysis appointments because somebody decided an ambulance is nothing more than a taxi with flashing lights.

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