More great information from Mike Giannini, EMS Battalion Chief for Marin County Fire. I asked him about the cost of a helicopter extraction that we saw in my first post. Chief Giannini reported that “there are five public ambulance providers in the County. All are fire based. That means they are run by the various fire departments. Each of the five has a slightly different approach to billing for care. Some bill just for transport. Others bill for the care provided at the scene even if there is no transport. Most waive the charge to residents. It is a real mixed bag. Most insurance companies cover at least a part of the cost. Individual coverages also play a part. Helicopter transport is usually covered to some extent by insurance. Again, many factors are involved in determining what, if any, cost is passed to the patient.”
An interesting article on this subject from the Monterey County Herald reports that a ride on a Calstar helicopter, like the one used in the Mt. Tam extraction, can cost the injured party up to $10,000.
Calstar, to their credit, offers a program where an individual can buy coverage for one year for $45. However, when you look at the details, it seems that this coverage may be useless in many cases. First responders make the determination whether air transport is necessary, not the injured cyclist. If air transport is necessary, county protocol determines which provider is used.
This recent article about a non-cyclist injury at China Camp mentions Calstar interaction with the Coast Guard. Obviously private ambulance services are being used in the County; it is perplexing that the costs of those services are not clear.