April 09, 2002 11:00 pm

Its good to see partnerships being established among ground and air ambulance service providers in Northeast Oregon and elsewhere in the Northwest. That way those who buy ambulance insurance are covered if they should wander outside of their community and need medical transport. The agreements should be expanded nationally.

AIR LIFE OF OREGON, based in Bend, the La Grande Fire Department and the Wallowa County Ambulance Service have entered into a partnership that will benefit those living in either county who need air or ground ambulance services and have purchased memberships in any of the three agencies.

This means that a person from La Grande who is stricken with an illness or involved in an accident in Enterprise requiring ambulance transportation can receive that service under one membership. The same would be true of someone from Wallowa County needing ambulance transport in La Grande or somewhere else in Union County.

The cost of a local membership is $45 per

family per year for either ground or air ambulance, or $80 for both services. Ambulance insurance is not for everyone, but should be considered by anyone at high risk of needing medical transport. People looking at buying a membership should investigate first what their health insurer provides already for ambulance reimbursement.

THE AFFILIATIONS OF AMBULANCE providers is growing. Air Life of Oregon, which operates a fixed-wing air ambulance out of the Union County Airport, has reciprocal agreements with seven other agencies serving the Northwest. The La Grande and Wallowa ground ambulance services have reciprocal agreements with Arlington, Condon, Fossil, Heppner, Lexington, Ione, Pendleton, Hermiston, Athena, Umatilla and Baker County.

Beginning in May, Union and Wallowa counties ground ambulance services will become members of FireMed, which gives them reciprocity with more than 60 ambulance services in Oregon.

Such partnerships should be expanded nation-wide, so people buying ambulance insurance in Northeast Oregon can use their membership anywhere they go in the country.


Time ran out this week for Brandy Stroeder, the young woman who was in a need of a lung-liver-heart transplant. Stroeder, 19, died Monday at Portlands Doernbecher Childrens Hospital.

STROEDER HAD BEEN refused coverage by the Oregon Health Plan for her rare, expensive surgery. Private donations surfaced, but complications occurred and the hoped-for operation never came to pass.

A legacy could be left for Stroeder if Oregon comes to grips with how it can pay for similar, life-saving surgeries in the future. Maybe a state and private foundation partnership could be explored. Patients like Stroeder in the future should not have to deal with the double-edged sword of a serious illness and the issue of how to pay for treatment.