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Oct 3, 2012 10:06 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Flanders-Northampton Volunteer Ambulance Renews Push For Third-Party Billing

Oct 15, 2012 9:39 AM

Representatives of the Flanders-Northampton Volunteer Ambulance say that individually billing patients who utilize their ambulances, or their insurance companies, would save taxpayers money while also generating new revenue needed to provide better services.

At a public meeting last Wednesday, September 26, in the ambulance company’s headquarters in Flanders, an attorney for the volunteer outfit pitched a plan that he said could reduce taxes in the ambulance district by an estimated 40 percent, while pulling in additional revenue that would allow Southampton Town to increase the ambulance company’s annual budget by approximately $150,000.

The proposal drew a sharp reaction from the roughly 30 residents in attendance, most of whom expressed concern that those without health insurance would be left to foot a hefty bill, one that they aren’t responsible for under the current system.

“We want to provide you with the best care possible—there is nothing more important,” Brad Pinsky, an attorney and certified EMT based in Syracuse, said during the meeting. “They’re not out for anything but to give you good care.”

He explained that, under the proposed system, those who are transported by ambulance to the hospital would be billed by a third-party company hired by the district. Most insurance companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, would then cover the costs of that bill. He said that insurance companies already offer reimbursement for ambulance transportation and hike up the cost of their coverage as a result.

Last year, residents within the roughly 20.6-square-mile ambulance district paid 60 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value, which generated a total of $474,950 in tax revenue for the company. Therefore, a property owner whose home is assessed at $275,000, for example, paid about $165 in ambulance district taxes in 2011. In comparison, residents in the 8.6-square-mile Southampton Ambulance District paid 6 cents per every $1,000, which generated $555,864 in revenue last year; taxpayers in the 37.1-square-mile Westhampton Ambulance District paid 8 cents per every $1,000, which generated a total of $879,741; and residents in the 21.4-square-mile Hampton Bays Ambulance District paid 27 cents per $1,000, bringing in a total of $1,037,944. The tax rates for 2012 have not yet been released, according to the Southampton Town Tax Receiver’s office.

Those in Flanders, Riverside and Northampton pay such a higher tax rate because, overall, the properties are assessed much lower than in other parts of the town.

Mr. Pinsky, meanwhile, pointed out that the Northampton-Flanders Volunteer Ambulance has the burden of responding to emergency calls at the Suffolk County Center and Suffolk County Jail in Riverside. He also explained that the ambulance company responds to an average of 680 advanced life support calls a year, which, he projected, would be billed under the proposed system at $400 each and would generate an estimated $272,000 in revenue. In addition, the company responds to an average of 370 basic life support calls a year, which would be billed at $300 each and would generate another $111,000, he said.

The change could generate another $383,000 in new revenue, according to Mr. Pinsky’s estimates. He explained that about $40,000 would have to be deducted each year to pay the billing company, but that taxpayers would only be expected to generate $283,000 in taxes each year, down from the almost $475,000 they are now paying into the system, or about 40 percent less, if those using the ambulances are billed individually for the service.

The switch, he said, would set aside enough money for the company to upgrade its equipment and employ a full-time advanced life support paramedic. The district currently allocates about $90,000 a year to pay for advanced life support staff.

The company currently has about 30 active volunteers, one advanced life support paramedic who is paid to be on-call from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Monday through Friday, and four per diem advanced life support workers who are available 24 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday, according to Ronald Hintze, who sits on the ambulance company’s board of directors. The additional funding, he said, would allow the outfit to hire additional per diem staffers who could cover the gap on weekday evenings.

“I’m not doing this to be self-serving,” Mr. Hintze said, adding that it is vital to have an advanced life support worker on staff. “We’re negligent if we don’t do it.”

Brad Bender, the president of the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association, attended the meeting and said he is concerned about those residents who make enough money so that they don’t qualify for Medicaid, but still cannot afford health insurance. “I feel that there are going to be people stuck in this spot, and they will have to choose between feeding their family or paying the ambulance company,” he said. “I know, personally, in my own household, I am insured, but my partner is not. If he needed an ambulance ride, he would fall in that category where he doesn’t have insurance but they think he makes enough money.”

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Oh great just what we need, rewarding wasted spending practices of taxpayer monies with more money. Why not, the ambulance personnel know taxpayers have deep pockets, this all borders on criminal. Remember the past..... Riverhead Fire Commish diverted $100,000 to his company a few years back, East Moriches Ambulance Chief wrote checks to himself DA Spota indited him, on and on it goes. Poor grandmar isn't going to call for the ambulance for fear it's pay for her food or the ambulance bill. My God ...more
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on Oct 3, 12 11:57 AM