Replacing one bad idea with another

The BBC has an interesting report on ambulance services in Beijing.  Up until now, ambulance drivers could decide themselves how much to charge people for their services.  I’m assuming these weren’t listed or known beforehand either.  This seems ripe for abuse given that the patient will be desperately wanting to get to the hospital and in no state for bargaining.  According to the article, most Chinese on social media didn’t even know that ambulances charge at all.  That must come as a big shock then when they get hit up by the driver.

So what did authorities decide to do?  Decree that ambulances “be fitted with taxi-style meters in an effort to allay public concerns about overcharging.”  Hmm, this doesn’t seem to be the most incentive compatible policy either.  As one social media cynic (read: realist) pointed out, “Don’t rule out ambulances taking a detour when using the meter.”  At least when you’re in the backseat of a cab, you can watch where the driver is going.  In the back of an ambulance in an emergency situation, that’s not going to be very feasible!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way advocating free ambulance services, but there has to be a better policy than this.

3 thoughts on “Replacing one bad idea with another

  1. Well, we’re educated people. Rather than just say “there must be something better!” why don’t we figure out what would be better? It seems to me, the issue of what the ambulance can charge should not be up to the consumer at all, but up to whatever 911 service the consumer called for help. After-all, my speed dial isn’t to an ambulance driver, it is to a call center. And that call center has all day to figure out which ambulance service to hire at what rate.

    The problem, I think, is that the 911 service is government provided, but the ambulance is not. This should be easy enough. The 911 service has a call list of ambulance drivers. There must be hoops for drivers to jump through to get on that list. The simplest idea is for the 911 service to set the price, based on region, and any ambulance accepting calls for that region must accept that price. If there is not enough ambulance service at the stated price in the region, raise the price. If too many drivers are showing up, lower the price. The problem, of course, is that ambulance drivers will very quickly lobby the government for abuse of this pricing power. Which could quickly become worse than the nothing they currently have.

  2. Pingback: Ambulances too China incentives of the day - Marginal REVOLUTION

  3. There is nothing wrong with trying new ideas, but we got to be determined for it. I do Forex trading and I always stick to my ideas and plans, it’s boosted a lot with OctaFX broker that I work with since they have excellent set of conditions with small spreads, high leverages, rebates and all that, so that helps me with achieving my targets and able to fill all my ideas without difficulty, but again you got to be determined for it.

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