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Bad economic times also affect EMS, since people who lose their jobs also lose their health benefits. Because they have lost health benefits, they will put off their health care needs until it becomes too late. Then they usually call 911. And since they have no health insurance, they usually do not have any money to pay the ambulance bill if your department seeks reimbursement for transport.
As stated above, a bad recession will create more homelessness. Homeless people are more apt to call 911 since they have no insurance or money to go to a doctor's office. Again, all of this translates into more 911 calls for EMS, but possibly with fewer resources because of budget cuts.
Although these are difficult times, they are not expected to end anytime soon. As they say, "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best," since there will be no bailout for the fire service.
Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P, a FirehouseÂ® contributing editor, is a deputy fire chief with the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. He has 30 years of fire-rescue service experience. Ludwig is chairman of the EMS Section for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has a master's degree in business and management, and is a licensed paramedic. He is a frequent speaker at EMS and fire conferences nationally and internationally, and can be reached through his website at www.garyludwig.com.