Taneytown fire unit to charge for ambulance services Oct. 1

September 23, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Mindful of the criticism directed at other Carroll fire companies for initiating fees without notifying the public, the Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company introduced its plan to charge for ambulance service at a community meeting last night.

The 15-minute meeting attracted 20 people, and fire company officials said more than half the group was made up of fire company members.

The fire company has contracted with a Delaware firm to begin charging for ambulance service Oct. 1. The fire company will bill a patient's insurance company $300 or $400, depending on the level of service provided.

"I think there is a lot of use [of the ambulance service]. I don't think there are a lot of concerns," said B. Noelle Floreen, a Westminster medical billing consultant and author of a book on health insurance reimbursement.

Floreen said it is important for Carroll residents to understand that billing insurance companies for emergency ambulance service provided by volunteer fire companies "is going to be good for the community."

Taneytown fire company's decision to levy ambulance fees was based on a May initiative from the County Commissioners, who proposed the fees in lieu of county financing for 24-hour, seven-day coverage recommended at Taneytown and three other high-volume stations by a consultant's study.

The Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association voted reluctantly in May to support billing for ambulance service at the 14 county volunteer fire companies amid fears that it would lead to a decline in volunteerism.

But the fire companies are facing increasing demands for service and declining numbers of volunteers. None of the companies expects to provide full-time staffing with volunteers.

Taneytown is the first local company to introduce its billing plan at a public meeting. Westminster Fire and Hose Company No. 1 began charging for ambulance service in January 1997. Union Bridge, Winfield, and Pleasant Valley fire companies followed.

Charging for emergency ambulance service "won't affect the service. In fact, it will make it better because we'll pay [advanced life-support technicians] around the clock," said Mike Clapsaddle, Taneytown fire company president. Taneytown has paid ALS technicians on duty 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

The fire company will charge $400 for an ambulance call requiring ALS coverage, which includes any call requiring intravenous fluids. A call requiring basic life support service will cost $300.

The billing service will forward the charges to health insurance companies and will bill patients for any amount not covered. Patients who fail to pay will receive a second notice, but the fire company won't pursue those who fail to pay after the second notice, Clapsaddle said.

He said fire company members understand that some residents are unable to afford the charge.

Taneytown, which owns two ambulances, responds to about 800 calls a year.

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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