In response to community concerns over the cost of emergency service rides, the city and the Glendale Fire Department created the Glendale Medic Membership Program, which offers members significantly reduced ambulance fees for an annual charge of $60. Though this program was created in 2004, very few Glendale residents have taken advantage of its benefits.
Even residents with medical insurance can still face a bill of around $700 for an ambulance ride, according to Glendale’s Emergency Medical Services Battalion Chief Todd Tucker. For those enrolled in the membership program, however, charges not covered by insurance will be waived.
Despite the Medic program costing $5 per month — which is included in residents’ Glendale Water and Power bills — there are only 3,804 subscriptions throughout the city as of Oct. 1, with one subscription covering an entire household.
According to the U.S. Census, there are 189,221 Glendale residents and 73,394 households, averaging about 2.65 people per household, as of 2022. Applying this data to the number of Medic Membership Program subscriptions shows that only about 5% of Glendale’s population is covered by this program.
“Oftentimes in my office, I’ll get a phone call from a patient who will say, ‘Hey, is there anything you can do? I didn’t know this bill was going to be so steep.’ … We explain the program and they always say, ‘Well, if I would have known about this Glendale Medic Program, I would have been a member,’” Tucker told the News-Press.
The program is also available to those who do not have insurance. For the same $60 annually, an ambulance bill for a resident without insurance will be cut in half.
While prices for ambulance services can vary based on a patient’s medical needs, a ride with an advanced life support can cost “in the neighborhood of $3,000 without insurance,” according to Tucker, who also noted that Glendale sets their ambulance rates in accordance with the L.A. County Department of Health Services.
While there was a “big advertising push” when the program first began, including mailing fliers attached to people’s GWP bills, Tucker said there was a lull in advertising the program until recently. In addition to recently revamping the program’s website with updated information and putting out new fliers in various languages, the department has also given presentations about the program to senior centers and retirement homes.
“It’s a really good use of our time to be able to go out there face to face with the community, and have the ability to have them ask questions and talk directly to us,” said Tucker, who said they are planning to host more community presentations.
The department is also planning to attach QR codes that will link to the program’s website to residents’ GWP bills, as well as doing a social media push “to get people aware that this is out there and that it’s a benefit that they can take advantage of,” Tucker added.
First published in the October 28 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.