2016-02-26 / Front Page

Town’s ambulance fees on the rise

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Selectmen voted unanimously at their Feb. 9 meeting to increase EMS ambulance rates for 2016.

Initially, Fire Chief Jeffrey Rowe submitted a recommendation to leave rates unchanged from 2015. However, questions arose during budget board meetings with selectmen over a projected $25,000 shortfall in rescue billing budget next year. The service currently brings in $800,000 per year in revenue, but expects to take in just $775,000 next year.

In response, Rowe suggested rate increases of between 5 and 30 percent. The smaller jumps are for ambulance rides to an area hospital that require Kennebunk EMTs and paramedics to provide either basic (BLS) or advanced (ALS) life support activities. Those rates now climb to $447 for a non-emergency BLS transport up to $1,216 for an emergency ALS ride.

“The jumps there come to us because of a recommendation from our billing company,” Rowe said. “A lot of your [insurances], Medicaid, Medicare and Anthem, do not pay for supplies any longer. So these are bundled fees. By bundling, we can charge for supplies.”

The larger 30 percent jump applies to a paramedic interfacility transfer (PIFT). Rowe said Kennebunk has not provided PIFT services for “the last couple of years,” and only participated in 12 such transfers the last year it did.

Rose said Kennebunk Rescue also will up its fee for mileage, from $13.40 to $15 per mile. The department also will begin charging a $131 fee for calls that end up not requir- ing transport to a hospital, such as responding to a diabetic emergency, where the patient is fine once his or her blood sugar is stabilized.

“Currently, we don’t charge for non-transport calls,” Rowe said. “But on a lot of those we actually do a lot of assessment and patient contact.”

Rowe noted that only 8 percent of patients per year pay out of pocket. The majority has the bill covered by some form of insurance, including Medicare (61 percent), private carriers (21 percent), Blue Cross (7 percent) and MaineCare (5 percent).

“By increasing the fees, we’re not really hitting the taxpayers in the pocket for this,” Rowe said. “We’re going to charge the users that much more and most of that will be covered by insurance.”

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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