June 24 2019

Selectmen Approve Ambulance Rate Increase Amid Increase in Calls and Advanced Services

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Board of Selectmen voted to raise the ambulance billing rates charged to those who require transport and their insurance companies during the meeting on Monday night.

 

Chief Steve Yetman, Assistant Chief Mike Patterson and Town Accountant John Danizio outlined a number of reasons for the request to up the rates from the current level of the Medicare Rate +150 percent to the Medicare Rate +300 percent.

 

The first, they said, is that the rates have not been raised since 2013 and it is normal for a municipality to adjust rates regularly. Also, in a comparison of 14 other communities Burlington was near the bottom. For example, Belmont, Lincoln, Melrose, Watertown and Westford currently charge the Medicare Rate +300 percent.

 

“The administration of the Fire Department has looked closely at the ambulance billing rates of our neighboring communities,” Chief Yetman said in a letter to the board. “Our current ambulance billing rates fall far below the average rates of our fifteen neighboring communities.”

 

Secondly, the Burlington Fire Department is in the process of transitioning from offering Basic Life Support to offering Advanced Life Support by hiring more paramedics and offering paramedic training to current members who a certified EMTs.

 

The group also said that the department is now getting more calls for service, especially ambulance services, than it ever has and that has increased the cost to the department and therefore the town.

 

“As our ambulance calls for service has increased, so have our operating costs,” Yetman wrote in the letter. “Changes in equipment, technology, medications and training requirements have impacted our operating costs. The rising costs of maintaining an ambulance and fuel have also impacted our operating costs.”

 

They also pointed out that the majority (53 percent) of residential calls are for older patients covered by Medicare and that the increase only impacts people with private insurance. Danizio further pointed out that the town has an abatement program for people who are hit with costs not covered by insurance that they cannot afford.

 

Finally, the group said that legislation in the works might cap what municipalities can charge and so it was important, if the board wanted to make this change, to do it now.

 

Board Chairman Joe Morandi said that while he did not like increasing fees on anyone that because costs to the town were rising and that because there are protections for people who cannot afford ambulance bills, he would be in favor of the increase.

 

“None of us like going up on rates for residents on anything,” he said. “But the number of our ambulance runs are bigger than they have ever been so this is something that as a town we need to do.”

 

The board voted 4-0-1 in favor of the rate hike with Selectman Michael Runyan abstaining because he is an employee of the department.


 

 
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