The Hot Spot


AFMA/Sun Lakes Fire Chief discusses Ambulance Membership Program

Brian Curry

With an invitation from Judy Caniglia, President of the Sun Lakes Women’s Association, Arizona Fire & Medical Authority (AFMA) Deputy Chief Rob Helie came to speak to the group recently. The main subject of the discussion was AFMA’s proposal to implement an Ambulance Membership Program and future changes to ambulance billing.

Due to many changes in the insurance industry and, in particular, the reimbursement of costs associated with ambulance transports, AFMA can no longer afford to absorb the balance of transport and care costs that primary and secondary insurances do not cover, including Medicare. This will result in AFMA billing residents for any outstanding co-pay or deductible on an ambulance transport. “We want our residents to realize that this is only for co-pays and deductibles, much like when they go to a doctor’s office or urgent care,” Chief Helie said. In an effort to offset the burden placed on the residents being billed for co-pays and deductibles, AFMA is asking the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) to allow them to implement an Ambulance Membership Program (AMP).

AZDHS has 450 days to act upon this request. Chief Helie stressed that until approval is given, there will be no change in how Sun Lakes ambulance calls are responded to or billed. “There will never be a change in the emergency medical care or response provided by our Sun Lakes paramedics and EMT’s. No attempt will be made to recoup the substantial costs that are left unpaid until AZDHS approval,” Chief Helie said.

The strictly-voluntary AMP is an attempt to lessen out-of-pocket costs for the Sun Lakes residents as sort of a supplemental insurance policy. “In reality, district residents’ primary and secondary insurance have always been billed, but they never saw that part of it. Anything that was not paid by insurance was absorbed at a considerable loss to the fire district. We are not looking to make a profit on ambulance transports, but funds are needed to both maintain state-of-the-art ambulances, equipment and to staff them with highly-trained EMTs and Paramedics.” Helie stressed.

AMP memberships are not available at this time, as we are awaiting AZDHS approval. As the AMP proposal makes its way through the approval process, residents can sign up for email notifications regarding the AMP program at under the Ambulance Membership Program tab. This website also has more information that can help answer questions. If any clubs or civic groups would like a presentation on the billing changes or AMP, Chief Helie can also be reached at [email protected] to schedule a meeting.