The Village of Fredonia Board of Trustees is considering steps to determine if it can recoup any expenses from fire department-related ambulance transport services.
On Monday evening during a workshop session before its regular meeting, the mayor and trustees discussed options to bill insurance companies for emergency medical services (EMS) provided by the fire department when other transportation like Allstar is not available.
Fire Chief Derek Jordan reported about 160 calls per year come from Fredonia Place alone, and while the numbers were not available at the meeting, it was speculated a similar number of emergency transports take place from the college annually.
Village Mayor Stephen Keefe said currently, "Allstar charges. If we do it, it's free." In a phone call after the meeting, Village Trustee Joseph Cerrie noted, "Allstar is not in service 50-60 percent of the time. When you only have six full-time and two part-time (EMS workers), it makes it difficult. Our goal is to give the best service possible, but it's a lot of stress on our employees."
Jordan reported on Saturday night, six EMS calls came into the department within an hour.
Cerrie said the volume of EMS calls is consistently rising in the village and Town of Pomfret. Cerrie said requests for mutual aid to other municipalities was also rising, in part due to the number of level 3 and 4 paramedics employed by the village, which is not common in the region. "When you have a growing college and an aging population, where does it end? We're never going to jeopardize service because of money, but our costs keep going up," Cerrie said.
The first step in initiating a billing system, according to Village Clerk Richard St. George, is to authorize a study to be conducted by a law firm which specializes in such billing arrangements between municipalities and insurance companies. "This is the only kind of work they do. This kind of thing is boilerplate for them," Cerrie said of the few specialty attorneys in the region.
According to Cerrie, EMS calls cannot be legally billed if volunteers are present on the calls. Because the volunteers occupy the same building as paid firefighters and paramedics, the study is necessary to determine how to keep the two entities, paid and volunteer firefighters, separate in accordance with complicated legal parameters.
The study is estimated by the law firm to cost the village up to $4,500 and is expected to help the village determine how to structure the fire department so that a billing system, the missing link in obtaining insurance reimbursement, can be put into place. The estimate is higher than the board initially anticipated, which was at a cost of around $1,500.
It was also noted to meet mandates to qualify for reimbursement, costs will be involved, in part because only paid EMS workers must be present on calls, and not volunteers. "There will be a lot of expenses associated with this," St. George told the board. Two paid workers per vehicle would be required to be on duty 24 hours a day. The village owns two emergency response vehicles.
Trustee Adam Brown told the board if the "only option to find out if we can make a little bit of the money back or maybe have it be a wash instead of losing a ton of money," then he is in favor of going forward with the study. Trustee Thomas Brown II had a similar response. "I'd like to see us get something back on this," Brown II said.
Before adjourning the workshop session to begin the regular meeting, the trustees decided to obtain more information about what specifically would be provided by the law firm once the study was conducted. Other questions remain unanswered, such as the amounts paid by providers. Jordan noted Medicare and Medicaid reimburse at a flat rate regardless of the call. Keefe suggested a structure would need to be in place for those without insurance and those with different levels of coverage. The board agreed to continue discussion on the matter at upcoming meetings.
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