The Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance has received about $160,000 per year from third-party billing on its calls, according to Ron Hintze, a founding member of the corps, who spoke at last Monday’s meeting of the Flanders Riverhead and Northampton Community Association.
In addition to the third-party billing, he said the county also pays FNVA about $20,000 to $30,000 per year to transport inmates from the jail to Peconic Bay Medical Center.
At one time the ambulance corps paid all costs for transporting inmates to the hospital, even though they come from all over Suffolk County.
Asked how the district is doing now, Mr. Hintze responded, “With the third-party billing and the contract from the jail, we are doing OK. About $800,000 is where we need to be.”
The ambulance corps’ budget is currently about $628,000, he said.
Third-party billing for FNVA services began in February 2018 and is intended to only send a bill to people who do not pay into the FNVA tax district.
Unlike Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance, which only sends a bill to non-district residents involved in automobile accidents, the FNVA billing applies to every medical call in the service area, although FNVA taxpayers are not required to pay, Mr. Hintze said.
Since people in the district already pay through their auto insurance, taxpayers who have car insurance were paying twice, by paying the district tax and the insurance.
Instead, anyone who is a taxpayer in the district will not be billed for ambulance service, Mr. Hintze said.
People using FNVA services who are not district taxpayers will get a bill, he said.
Because the FNVA district — which covers the hamlets of Flanders, Riverside and Northampton — has so much property off the tax rolls, either through municipal buildings or parkland, its tax rate is the highest of the four ambulance districts in Southampton Town, although its budget is the lowest of those four districts. Hampton Bays, Southampton and Westhampton Beach are the other districts.
Hampton Bays ambulance budget is about $1.24 million, followed by Westhampton at $985,000, Southampton at $886,000 and FNVA at $628,000, Mr. Hintze said.
FNVA also is the second busiest ambulance district in Southampton Town, behind only Hampton Bays.
“That’s why we did the third-party billing,” Mr. Hintze said. “We have lot of land and very little taxpayers.”
Officially, the Town of Southampton is the ambulance district, and it contracts for service with the four ambulance companies for service.
“We made an agreement with the Town of Southampton, who governs us, that we don’t want any out of payment expense from any taxpayer in the FNVA district,” Mr. Hintze said. “Anybody in the FNVA district, you already, by statute, pay you co-payment for the rest of that bill with the $628,000 that we collect from the town because you pay property taxes.
“You already pay that, so we’re allowed by law to waive your copayment or whatever your insurance doesn’t cover.”
If they are not a taxpayer?
“They will get a bill,” Mr. Hintze said. “Our billing company is authorized to go after that whole bill. If they can’t pay it or they don’t have insurance, we have the right to waive that bill. We sit down with you, you explain your situation. It’s all confidential.”
Mr. Hintze said that nationwide, volunteerism is dropping because the cost of living is so expensive and because the amount of training and meetings volunteers are required to undergo is like having another part-time job.
Because of this, FNVA, which answers between 1,300 and 1,500 alarms per year, has about 22 per diem employees, in addition to about 35 volunteers and three part-time paid employees. The per diem employees get paid when they respond to calls, he said.
“This insures that we have someone on 24/7,” Mr. Hintze said, adding that they have not raised their tax rate in two years.
FRNCA president Vince Taldone said the call for ambulance service will increase in the future if proposals to develop the Riverside come through.
“The question of when and how much development is coming is really dependent on getting the sewer system,” he said.
At this point, its too early to tell, he said.