2013-11-01 / Front Page

Town weighs ambulance billing change

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — Fire Chief Don Pyer is proposing that selectmen approve changes to the town’s ambulance billing fees and the method of calculating fees to collect more accounts in arrears.

Board members also discussed changing the town’s zip code and a grant study to improve the town’s infrastructure at the selectmen’s meeting held Monday, Oct. 28.

After conferring with Comstar Ambulance Billing, the public safety department “found out some things we weren’t aware of. For example we are not billing for intercepts,” Pyer told the board.

Pyer was referencing paramedic intercepts used by ambulance services. Paramedic intercept services, are Advanced Life Support, or ALS services provided by an entity that does not provide ambulance transport.

The services occur most often when a volunteer ambulance service, such as Arundel Fire Rescue, that can provide only Basic Life Support (BSL) is dispatched to transport a patient.

Pyer, who informed the board that he thinks charging a bundled rate for services would be advantageous, is in the process of comparing ambulance-billing rates with North Berwick, a town of similar size.

Pyer also told the board that he discovered accounts receivable that the town has not yet collected. To collect it without the help of a billing agency would be very time-consuming, Pyer said. “The receivable is there, but no one is going to get it,” he said.

At the moment, Arundel receives approximately 78 percent of what is owed on collections under its current ambulance billing plan.

Bundled rates charged by the collection agency includes collection rates of 85 percent and up, thus the savings if Arundel Fire and Rescue chooses to charge a bundled rate is an estimated savings of about $50,000, annually, Pyer said. “It just makes things a whole lot cleaner,” Pyer told the board.

According to Pyer, Comstar Ambulance Billing charges approximately 7 percent of the amount collected.

Selectman Dan Dubois, in reference to recovering collections, asked, “Do we have the resources to chase this stuff down?” To which Town Manager Todd Shea said, “Immediately, no. We need to figure out if that 7 percent fee they’re charging us is worth our manpower to chase it down.”

The board elected to explore further the avenue of bundled rates, and Shea anticipates receiving more information from Comstar representatives.

Shea also reported the town’s recent participation in a Rural Activity Living Assessment, coordinated by the University of New England. The town received $1,500 for completing the study, which is intended to assist in earning infrastructure safety grants.

“Hopefully we can get some grant money to make some improvements,” Shea said before vetting with the board possible areas the money could be put to use, such as municipal walking trails and sidewalks.

Lastly, Arundel has been conferring for more than a year with the United States Postal Service for the purpose of zip code secession from neighboring Kennebunkport. This effort is being made in conjunction with Arundel ascertaining its own identity, the effort of which is typified through the ongoing market and branding study conducted by the Maryland-based firm, The Chesapeake Group.

Shea has since drafted a letter and mailed it to the regional USPS offices.

Shea told the board, “Everything is up and running. We should expect a determination in 60 days.”

Shea, after his letter was returned from the regional office informing him that it must be sent, first, to the USPS headquarters in Washington, D.C., had to wait until the government shutdown ended before continuing the process. “I got a chuckle out of that,” Shea said.

In other business, the board entered executive session to discuss recent site walks of potential land for Arundel’s new town hall.

The board also announced that a member of Sen. Susan Collins’ staff will hold constituent hours Wednesday, Nov. 20 from noon to 1 p.m. at Arundel Fire Rescue station.

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