Ambulance Companies Can Compete

Pennsylvania law permits municipalities to choose a preferred ambulance company and to appropriate public funds for ambulance and emergency medical services. But when a Pennsylvania township effectively banned all competing ambulance companies from doing business in the township, it exceeded its powers under the law.

The township had passed an ordinance designating the township’s ambulance service as the preferred provider. But the ordinance also directed all 911 calls to the township’s ambulance service, required all emergency providers to redirect emergency calls to the 911 system, and banned any other ambulance service from doing business or advertising in the township. An established commercial ambulance service with numerous subscribers and a 25-year history of doing business in the township sued and won.

The court held that municipalities may designate preferred emergency services providers and may devote public funds to such preferred providers. But the power to designate cannot be exercised so broadly as to “effectively exclude all other providers.” Finding that the township’s ordinance was an “attempt to isolate a revenue stream and eliminate competition,’ the court struck the ordinance down as unconstitutional. 

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