SAN ANTONIO – A program for which the City Council approved funding through 2022 is saving time, money and is freeing up first responders in ambulances to respond to more emergency situations.
The taxi voucher program allows people to get a free taxi ride to the hospital in nonemergency situations.
The partnership with Yellow Cab San Antonio allows for $50,000 per year in taxi vouchers.
The San Antonio Fire Department responds to hundreds of thousands of 911 calls a year. Some are for patients in need of critical care, while some are for patients who have minor needs, such as a fever or ankle sprain.
The taxi voucher program was created between the city and Yellow Cab San Antonio 12 years ago.
“The Fire Department was transporting a lot of patients that just needed rides to the hospital,” said Joe Arrington, public information officer for the San Antonio Fire Department.
How does the program work?
You can't just call 911 and request a taxi voucher, according to fire officials, who said you have to call 911 and emergency medical services crews will go out to you and evaluate you. Then they are the ones that decide whether or not you are going to ride to the hospital in an ambulance or with a taxi voucher.
Arrington called the program a win-win situation.
“The city will pay a taxi bill for your one-way ride to the hospital, and you are not going to incur that ambulance bill. We are going to get that ambulance back into service to provide that care for people who really need it,” Arrington said.
This is how much the program has cost taxpayers in the past three years:
In 2016, the program cost $23,828 and provided 1,260 rides
In 2017, the program cost $28,851 and provided 1,489 rides
In 2018, the program cost $33,363 and provided 1,719 rides
In the last three years, 1,200 to 1,700 taxi vouchers were provided, costing $28,000, which was paid by the city. Arrington said on average, a single ambulance ride costs a $1,000.
He said most importantly, the program saves first responders time.
The program “saves lives potentially, too,” Arrington said.
The program not only saves the patient from having to pay for an ambulance ride but also a bigger bill in general. According to fire officials, the patient will most likely not be charged for the emergency medical services crews to initially check him or her out as it is considered a public assist.
Fire officials said if you get a bill for the call and you used a taxi voucher, you can most likely dispute it.