The town of Burlington will hold an information session about the town’s ambulance services after a concerned resident raised a number of issues after receiving a bill after being transported to the hospital.
Resident Arthur MacDonald spoke during citizen’s time at the last Select Board meeting about what he sees as inconsistencies between ambulance bills he and his wife received and bills, or lack thereof, of friends and neighbors. Among other questions he said he wanted to know why he and his wife received multi-hundred dollar bills while neighbors who had been taken to the hospital by ambulance had not. He also asked why Amstrong Ambulance was sending out the bills after the town stopped using their ambulance service after the fire department went full Advanced Life Support.
Other questions included who sets the fees for ambulance services, how much is collected annually, where does the revenue go and whether or not it is legal for a commercial company to collect fees for the town.
During Monday night’s meeting, Town Accountant John Danizio attempted to answer MacDonald’s questions but also said the town will hold an information session at the Senior Center in January that will include a presentation of ambulance services available in town and have a member from Armstong’s billing department on hand to explain the fee process. BCAT will film the session and post it on our website.
Danizio said ambulance billing is very complicated. He said the fees are allowed under state law and they are authorized by the Select Board. The fees are calculated based on a number of factors including the type of ambulance service provided, the distance of the trip and whether someone is on Medicare and Medicaid.
Danizio added that it is legal for a town to contract a third-party to collect ambulance fees and that the municipality saves money by doing so because the complexity of the process would mean new staff members if the town attempted to do it internally. This would be much more expensive than the three-percent of ambulance fees currently paid out to Armstrong.
“The third party option is clearly the most cost effective and efficient way to do it,” he said. “If we were to do this ourselves we would need to hire one or two additional people dedicated to billing. Then we would need to provide specialized training for them.”
There was also a discussion raised by MacDonald about the complexity of the coding used on the bills. He said it is nearly impossible for an average citizen to know what they are paying for because everything is listed as a code rather than written out. Danizio said that will be part of the session early next year.
We will share the details of the information session when they become available.