Medical emergency transport and rescue services used to always be free to involved parties when the village of Fredonia provided them, but rising costs are now causing a shift to charging reimbursement fees for those services.
The village board, during its meeting Monday, established an emergency medical services department tasked with commencing revenue recovery from insurance agencies and Medicaid/Medicare for its work, through a third-party billing agency. A second resolution began the process for advertising for sealed proposals for one year of ambulance billing from that possible billing agency, with bids returnable to Village Hall by 11 a.m. on May 29.
Trustee Marc Ruckman was the only one to vote against the two resolutions.
OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox
Fredonia Fire Department Chief Kurt Maytum discusses the village's new paid EMS service during a village board workshop Monday. Also pictured, starting second from left, are Village Attorney Samuel Drayo, and trustees Phyllis Jones and Marc Ruckman.
"With the fact that costs obviously continue to escalate and we continue to need additional manpower and support, this revenue should be a way to offset costs associated with transporting. Today, we average about 126 calls per year when Alstar (Ambulance), a commercial service, is not available," newly elected Fire Chief Kurt Maytum explained to board members, adding a committee of fire department members and trustees Joseph Cerrie and Janel Subjack helped explore the possibility of paid EMS services for the village by comparing it with the village of Medina's paid setup.
"We have to do those 126 calls anyway; by law, these services default to us if (Alstar) is not available, and we don't get reimbursements for those right now," Maytum explained. "Alstar is also telling us they'll be less and less available to us (as they focus more on interfacility transports, where their revenues really are)."
Maytum added the revenues will help supply a better service to those in need of help, upgrading advanced life support services to being available around the clock since Alstar, when it is out of service, does not always send an ambulance capable of advanced life support.
Ruckman questioned Maytum as to if it was possible to enact a paid service without having to hire two new personnel positions, something the 2014-15 enacted budget allows for.
"We don't have the staff to do it now," Maytum replied. "The new staff positions that are in the budget are not strictly tied to this proposal because we've been asking for them for the last few years. We have only one man in the fire hall after 11 p.m. and on weekends after 3 p.m. I'm sending one man out on a firetruck when (federal) recommendations are four men on a firetruck. I need at least one more person around the clock so we can make this function ... We need those (two new) people to have proper staff levels, whether we transport with fees or don't transport, but preferably with fees so we can offset the cost (of these new positions)."
According to the approved fee schedule, basic life support transport to hospitals would cost $600, with advanced life support transport at $800 or $1,000, depending on if three or more drugs are administered or any of a number of life-or-death procedures are executed.
When Fredonia EMS personnel are called to assist on-board with another agency's transporting ambulance, those fees will increase $100. Basic life support assessments/on-scene treatments to those who refuse transport should cost $300, with advanced assessments/on-scene treatments at $350.
For every mile the ambulance travels, $20 will be assessed on top of the life support fee.
"These fees are a little bit lower than Alstar's and are open to changes by the board anytime," Maytum said. "Probably within the next few years, you're going to see a lot more (fire companies) doing this in Chautauqua County."
The board has yet to establish a policy for how to handle people with no insurance and for waiving a copay to residents of the village and the town of Pomfret fire protection district, something the EMS committee recommended since those residents are already paying property taxes. Full revenues, including copay, would be sought from mutual aid calls and SUNY Fredonia students.
"The advantage to the individual getting transported is they pay no copay (if they are a resident), whereas with Alstar, they would pay a copay," Mayor Stephen Keefe said.
Also during the meeting, County Executive Vince Horrigan presented a draft resolution to the board for Fredonia's support in the regional water district for the north county. The board decided to take the resolution up at its next meeting, which is a special meeting set for May 21 at noon.
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