Report: Privatization of EMS lowers quality of care

Numerous EMS agencies acquired by private equity firms, are aimed at making a profit from emergency calls while cutting costs and increasing prices


NEW YORK — A recent investigative report published by the New York Times sheds light on the growing trend of private equity firms purchasing and investing in EMS and fire services, and the potentially negative repercussions that may follow.

Numerous ambulance and fire agencies acquired by private equity firms, the Times reported, are aimed at making a profit from emergency calls while cutting costs and increasing prices. 

The privatization of ambulance services rose after the 2008 economic crisis, when cities struggled to pay for public services. Under private equity ownership, though, some “ambulance response times worsened, heart monitors failed and companies slid into bankruptcy,” the Times reports.

Out of 12 ambulance companies recently owned by private equity firms, three filed for bankruptcy in the last three years. All three had had issues prior to being taken over by a private equity firm. 

One service, Rural/Metro, was taken into bankruptcy by an equity investor, while another helped it out. During that period, the Times found that Rural/Metro’s response time slowed in some towns while billing practices dramatically increased. 

TransCare EMS services, acquired by Patriarch Partners, went through bankruptcy after a slew of supplies shortages, equipment failures and sending patients increasingly expensive bills.

These instances of failing emergency medical care have rippled across the nation, as private equity firms capitalize on the perpetual need for such services. The problem, the Times notes, is that the focus on patient care has become less about the service provided and more about profits. 

Read the full investigative piece at The New York Times.

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