Port Fire Department cost recovery program welcomed in first month

Port Fire Department cost recovery program welcomed in first month
The Port Washington Fire Department station. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

The Port Washington Fire Department rolled out its cost recovery program on June 1, the first time it would charge individuals for its ambulance services.

A month after the program’s start, the department’s Board of Directors chairman Christopher Bollerman said it has been received warmly by the community.

The cost recovery plan outlines four charges that patients utilizing the department’s medical services have to pay: basic life support services, advanced life support emergency, advanced life support 2 emergency and transportation per loaded mile.

Basic life support services cost $1,500, advanced life support would be $2,200, advanced life support 2 costs $3,000 and transportation per loaded mile is rated at $35 per mile.

The first three charges are determined by the type of care the patient requires during transportation. Every patient is charged with a singular fee depending on which of the three medical supports they need, but every patient is also charged for the loaded miles.

The transportation per loaded mile is the transportation fee calculated by the distance from the scene where a patient is picked up to the hospital that receives them. Patients are not charged for the distance the ambulance drives to the scene. The distance is rounded to the nearest tenth of a mile.

The Port Washington Fire Department has adopted “fair and reasonable rates” based on the costs of providing the service, according to Bollerman

This new cost recovery program is intended to combat some of the economic hardships the department has faced in recent years.

“No member of the Port Washington Fire Department will receive any benefit or any gain with the fire department enacting cost recovery,” Bollerman previously said to Blank Slate. “The people are the only ones that gain.”

Bollerman said the fire department is still in the process of aligning itself with insurance companies and other miscellaneous background items, but that the program has been fully implemented in the community.

“It’s really moving as planned,” Bollerman said.

He said the department’s volunteers and employees have been learning the processes of the new program, collecting the proper documentation from their patients necessary for cost recovery.

He said the cost recovery program has been going well, but there are bumps in the road as with any new program. He said these metaphorical bumps, though, are not major nor detrimental to the program’s purpose.

Before the program could be established, the department had to get approval from all seven municipalities it serves. He said this was the major hurdle the department had to overcome in implementing the program.

Bollerman said this was challenging but the collaboration between the department and the local officials was “wonderful.”

“Full transparency was our plan from the start, and that’s what we went with the entire time,” Bollerman said. “We believe that we’ve put together a solid plan that is truly going to benefit the people of Port Washington.”

While patients are now being charged for the medical services the Port Washington Fire Department provides, the department has implemented a “compassionate billing” program to combat the effects on Port Washington Residents.

Compassionate billing includes three aspects.

First, if the department responds to an emergency and the patient’s home address is located within the seven municipalities the department services, then that person’s copay is automatically waived.

“Whether their copay is $0 or $400, we are going to waive it,” Bollerman said.

In lieu of residents paying taxes for the infrastructure of the fire department that provides medical services to them, the department waives their copay, Bollerman said.

Second, if the costs of utilizing their emergency medical services will lead to financial strain, then the fee is waived.

So if you have a high insurance deductible for the medical services you receive, you can work with the department’s third-party billing company to express a financial hardship and the costs will be waived.

The Port Washington Fire Department has not implemented a sliding scale based on income or payment plans.

The department does not require authentication or documentation of why you cannot afford the services if you request a waiver of cost due to financial hardship. The patient will receive forms from the third-party billing company to document it.

The third aspect of compassionate billing is that the fire department is barred from recovering costs from an uninsured person.

“So anyone that is uninsured or lives in the shadows, they need not worry about calling for an ambulance,” Bollerman said. “We are forbidden from charging them and we will give them the same level of care as someone with the greatest insurance.”

Bollerman said that non-Port Washington residents are responsible for paying the costs recovered from utilizing their emergency medical services but can still request cost forgiveness due to financial hardship.

“Our theme is compassion and we’re not going to leave anyone behind in the community,” Bollerman said. “We’re going to take care of everybody.”

The Port Washington Fire Department established an FAQ page for residents to understand more about the program. Individuals can also contact the department’s business office at (516) 883-2200 with questions and Bollerman will reach out to them personally.

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