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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 22, 2011

Guilderland to change billing for emergency services

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — The town is changing the way it bills for emergency medical services after 15 years with the same kind of contract, hoping to earn an extra $230,000 a year.

When the town negotiated a new contract with the paramedics union last year, part of the agreement was to have a labor management committee analyze the billing services.

Right now, the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad and the Altamont Rescue Squad bill patients for basic life support services, and also bill for Guilderland’s Emergency Medical Services advanced life support services. The rescue squads then deduct their costs, and remit the difference to the town.

Approximately 1,400 advanced-life-support-services calls are made each year in Guilderland, and the town typically collects around $70,000 annually from emergency medical services bills, according to Supervisor Kenneth Runion. However, if the town billed separately for the services, it could collect as much as $300,000 annually, he said.

After consulting with the Certified Ambulance Group, an EMS billing company, and hearing a presentation from representative Mark Gentile, the town board decided unanimously on Tuesday to go out to bid for estimates from EMS billing companies.

Gentile explained that, while the Western Turnpike and Altamont rescue squads would continue billing for patients receiving Medicare and Medicaid, as required by federal law, the rest of the patients would be billed privately through the billing company.

“Everyone would be billed equitably and we would accept whatever their insurance covers,” Gentile told the board on Tuesday. All administrative work would be done by the billing company, which would collect 8 percent of the town’s generated revenue from the service.

The company would bill insurance companies, and the remainder of the bill would be the responsibility of the patient. It would be up to the town to decide how aggressively to pursue the collection of funds from town residents, who don’t have adequate insurance. 

Runion said that, since residents already pay taxes for the availability of the service, the town would try to collect on every account, but wouldn’t go as far as sending any unpaid accounts to a collections agency.

Republican Councilman Mark Grimm asked the supervisor at the board meeting what his response would be if a town resident asked him whether an emergency services bill should be paid.

“My response would be ‘Don’t pay the bill. Throw it away,’” said Runion.

The extra revenue generated from the change in billing services would go into the town’s general fund, and not be earmarked for use by the town’s paramedic program, Runion told The Enterprise.

“The cost of the paramedic program is $1.1 million annually, and the extra revenue definitely wouldn’t cover that, but it would make up some of it,” said Runion.

The town will open bids on Oct. 12. The board will vote on which billing company to contract at its Oct. 18 meeting. A letter will be sent to town residents informing them of the change in billing procedures.

“It’s a community-friendly program,” said Gentile.


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