Vigilant Fire Company announces public hearing on EMS billing

Vigilant Fire Company announces public hearing on EMS billing
One of Vigilant's ambulances (Photo courtesy of Vigilant Fire Company)

Vigilant Fire Company will be hosting a public meeting to discuss the possibility of direct billing for EMS services on June 19, an option they say is being explored at the request of local mayors.

The fire company described the forum as means to bring the community into the EMS billing discussion. A billing attorney will be on hand to discuss what medical billing could entail, how it might affect residents and field any concerns they may have.

“We’ve had many meetings with mayors and one of the issues is we want to make sure that not a handful of people decide this huge decision for the masses,” said David Weiss, chairman of the company’s Board of Trustees. “It’s bringing it to the people.”

Weiss said back in October that members of the fire company voted to authorize the board to look at the possibility of billing residents’ insurance for ambulance services.

Mayors have previously argued that billing for EMS services could save villages money at a time where managing rising costs under a state-mandated property tax cap proves difficult.

Kensington Mayor Susan Lopatkin said the issue of EMS billing has been a recurring over the last ten years as villages looked into ways to recuperate costs. She said, however, that while she would be happy to reduce any expenses, it is not a major issue for Kensington.

“Our budget amount for the ambulance service is not that large, so I don’t know that it’s going to impact us,” Lopatkin said, noting EMS service only costs her residents around $30 per year.

But larger villages may consider it a bigger issue, she added.

State law currently prevents volunteer fire departments from billing for medical services, Weiss said, which means the company could have to split to do so.

“The conundrum is that volunteer fire departments cannot bill for services. I am a fire department,” Weiss said. “My ambulance, at this particular moment and for the past 80 years, is part of the fire department.”

Vigilant Fire Chief Joshua Forst said that the program is “apolitical” and “strictly informational,” an attempt to answer questions both his company and the community have about any potential changes EMS billing could bring.

He said, however, that billing for EMS services is something that may or may not happen.

“This is really strictly information, to really get the message out of who we are, what we do, and a major potential change,” Vigilant Fire Company Chief Joshua Forst said.

Great Neck peninsula residents north of the Long Island Railroad are invited to attend the forum. The June 19 meeting is slated for 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at North Middle School.

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