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A growing emergency medical services problem in rural America

A paramedic prepares an ambulance for upcoming calls.
A paramedic prepares an ambulance for upcoming calls in Evergreen, Colorado. Phot: Kathryn Scott/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Ambulance services are closing in record numbers across rural America after failing to make ends meet, leaving 60 million Americans at risk of having no help in a medical emergency, NBC News reports.

The big picture: Some states are giving money to emergency medical services, but experts say it's not enough to solve the problem.

Between the lines: This is partially a staffing issue — which also drives the rural doctor shortage.

  • Rural areas tend to be populated with older, sicker and lower-income people than urban areas.
  • Not only does this create an unmet demand for health care services, but it also means there aren't many people in the community to serve — often on a volunteer basis — as emergency medical personnel.

The issue is compounded by rural hospital closures. Ambulances have to transport patients farther than they did before.

  • Since EMS programs are reimbursed per call, longer drives means less calls and thus less revenue.

Go deeper: The plight of America's rural health care