Flanders Northampton ambulance seeks billing program

Flanders Northampton Ambulance
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | First responders Wayne Ehlers Sr. (left) and Ronnie Hintze demonstrate the AED- automatic defibrillator works if someone is in cardiac arrest this past August at the Flanders Northampton Ambulance open house.

Like the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance is also considering a third-party billing system, meaning that people who receive ambulance service would receive a bill that they would then have to submit to their insurance company.

But unlike Riverhead, where the Town Board is driving the move toward third-party billing, in Flanders, the ambulance company itself is pushing for the move.

The proposal encountered both support and opposition during a public meeting to explain it last Wednesday at the ambulance headquarters.

“Our plan is to start issuing bills for ambulance services to all patients served by the ambulance corps,” Bradley Pinsky, an attorney who is working on the issue with Flanders Northampton, told those in attendance.

“We plan to use part of the billing revenue to enhance service and provide better, faster and more reliable care, and we propose to apply part of the billing revenue to the town taxes to lower the tax levy for ambulance services.”

“We predict lowering taxes by 40 percent,” Mr. Pinsky added.

Part of the plan to use the revenue is to hire professional paramedics or advanced life support providers on a per diem basis to respond to calls.

Currently, Flanders Northampton has a paid “houseman” who is also an ALS provider and responds to calls between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays, along with the volunteers, according to ambulance board member Ron Hintze.

On weekends, in addition to the volunteers, the district uses professional paramedics or ALS providers who are paid on a per diem basis and are not considered employees of the ambulance district. They work from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Sunday, he said.

If the third-party billing plan is instituted, and the revenue projections are accurate, the district would hire four or five more professionals on a per-day basis to respond to calls between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays and on weekends when there are gaps. The district currently has between 25 and 28 active volunteer members, of whom only one is a paramedic and only one is an ALS provider, Mr. Hintze noted.

The projected revenue from the third-party billing plan is $338,000 per year, Mr. Pinsky said. This estimate is based on 600 ALS calls at $400 each, 370 basic life support calls at $300 each and 40 non-emergency calls.

The district’s current annual budget, which is technically a contract for services with Southampton Town, is $476,000, Mr. Pinsky said, and the tax rate is 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Adding the projected income, Mr. Pinsky projects a 2013 budget of $626,000, a 31 percent increase. However, with part of the money used to offset taxes, the tax levy is proposed to decrease by $193,000, or 40 percent.

“The money will be used to lower your taxes and to hire more paid paramedic staff to ensure round-the-clock response, as well as to update equipment and ambulances in order to increase care and reliability,” Mr. Pinsky said.

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Read more, including community reaction, in this week’s edition of the News-Review newspaper.