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Town moving forward with third-party billing for ambulances

The Riverhead Town Board plans to issue a request for proposals for companies to administer a third-party billing system for ambulance service.

The board members, who have discussed third-party billing for nearly three years, said they only plan to require the billing on automobile accidents that require a response from the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Deputy Town Attorney Dan McCormick said he has researched the issue and has found nothing to indicate that the town can’t narrow down the billing to just automobile accidents.

“That will resolve my concern … that people who live in senior communities will have to pay a $20 co-pay every time they need an ambulance,” said Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

Councilman John Dunleavy has been calling for third-party billing for several years. In that system, a person’s auto insurance would be billed following the ambulance service.

“We have a lot of accidents in the Town of Riverhead,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “We have a lot of out-of-towners coming in and having accidents and using our ambulance for medical treatment, drugs and transportation. I think we should start billing automobile insurance policies for the operation of our ambulance at accident scenes.”

Supervisor Sean Walter has said he believes about $200,000 in revenue can be made for the ambulance corps through third-party billing. Previous estimates were as high as $500,000. Currently, the ambulance is funded by a special tax district.

Mr. Dunleavy believes the ambulance corps’ leadership has been stalling in implementing third-party billing.

But Councilman Jim Wooten said they have agreed to it and it is permitted in the contract the town signed with Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance in April.

Mr. Wooten said the contract requires the administration of the third-party billing to have a separate location from the ambulance headquarters, and that finding a suitable location is what has taken time.

He said he thinks a suitable location on Route 58 has finally been found.

But Mr. Dunleavy said that’s “putting the horse before the cart.” He said the town should first find out how much space is needed before it signs a lease on a building.

Board members ultimately agreed to put out the request for proposals and to include in that RFP a section asking respondents to indicate how much space they would need.

The board will need to pass a formal resolution at a regular board meeting to issue the RFP.

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