Modesty: The Lost Virtue

A reader brought to my attention an article about private ambulance companies in Orange County, California. The operational issues and political back-and-forths are really nothing new and are somewhat boring to me, but a few paragraphs in the article really made me laugh.

To illustrate the consequences of privatization, Knabe and others point to the recent experience of Alameda County, which lies across the bay from San Francisco. The county has contracted out its paramedic services for years. In November 2011, a new firm, Texas-based Paramedics Plus, took over with a five-year contract.

But things turned ugly this year when the company revealed it had so far lost $9.5 million on the contract and accumulated $3.9 million in county fines for failing to meet performance standards.

Despite the issues with its contract, Dale Feldhauser, new manager for Paramedic Plus in Alameda County, said it is the “biggest myth” in emergency services that public paramedics provide higher quality clinical care than private paramedics. “If they do proper cost accounting, they can’t touch [a private firm’s] cost structure,” he said.

I don’t know who any of these people are, but that’s some mighty big talk, coming from the firm that lost $9.5 million in a little more than a year.

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