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A Business Model for Hatzolah

Queens Hatzolah is a vital institution and should be subsidized with contributions from the community. It serves approximately 7,000 calls per year, has a fleet of 10 ambulances and consists of over 150 member volunteer workers. Hatzolah has a massive operating budget of $1,250,000 per year which covers ambulance insurance, fuel costs, medical supplies, medication and drugs, maintenance and repair of vehicles and equipment and EMT/Paramedic training.

Even after its yearly appeal in the beginning of the year, we find that Hatzolah is still in need of funds which is totally understandable but which brings into question a review of its business model. I think that Hatzolah should not be a Welfare program for the community. A vital service such as this should be shared by most of the community and not just through donations. Hatzolah’s primary purpose is to provide emergency service that is faster than what the city offers. Many people are able to pay for this extra quality of service and I think that they should be billed for it once it is given to them. If someone is unable to pay for the full cost of a service then they should demonstrate what they are able to pay and pay what they can unless they are absolutely impoverished, in which case they would pay nothing.

Another system that I heard some people propose is to make it like an insurance program where everyone who wants to participate in the Hatzolah service should pay a yearly premium, which if many people participated in, as in any other insurance program, would not be prohibitively high. Again, if someone demonstrated that they are unable to pay the full premium then they can pay a discounted premium and in rare cases with absolute impoverishment, their premiums could be waived.

Hatzolah should be run like a non-profit business and not a non-profit social service agency because the current model is based on a precarious financial foundation. People should not get something that costs so much - for free - and based on what we know of human nature it is basic to assert that many are able to pay for all or most of the cost of the service that they received but don’t compensate Hatzolah accordingly. Furthermore it is human nature that what people get for free they tend to take advantage of and I have heard from a reliable source that there is abuse of the system of people calling Hatzolah for non emergency purposes. That’s straight out gezailah from the community and should not be tolerated even if such service recipients paid into an insurance pool. For abuse of the system there should be 3 strikes and you’re out - 3 times you call Hatzolah for a non emergency and you’re not eligible to call Hatzolah anymore. Hatzolah bears no responsibility to get someone to a hospital faster than the city provides - the city provides emergency service also.

Yeshivahs serve a vital purpose to the community as well but they don’t rely solely on charitable donations for their existence. They charge hefty tuition to all those who can handle it and I think Hatzolah should study that model even though the participation rate isn’t the same - all frum children go to yeshiva but not all people from the community end up needing Hatzolah - but most people would want that assurance that Hatzolah would be there for them C’V in a moment of great need.

Anything that is too good is no good because that’s not reality and if Hatzolah can not manage even with the yearly appeals it shows that it needs to be undergirded with a good business model that would form the foundation unto which charity can greatly enhance it.

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