Chief Whitty updates council on ambulance service progress

Revenues from the city’s recently established ambulance service are just beginning to come in, although the city has not yet been able to bill for Medicare and Medicaid covered transportation calls. Amsterdam Fire Department Chief Michael Whitty updated the Common Council on the matter at a Public Safety Committee meeting on Thursday.

According to Whitty, the time that it takes for the insurance company to be billed for an ambulance transport and for payment to be received by the city can be as long as 30 to 60 days. The city just recently received its first payment of $3,998 for six transports during the first week the service was operational in early August.

So far, the city has billed a total of $82,820 from August through the end of September. Whitty pointed out that the city will most likely not receive the full amount, as different insurance companies have different policies as to the amount they pay for various services.

Whitty stressed that the numbers were not an accurate indicator of future revenue as the city has not yet received its Medicare or Medicaid provider numbers, and therefore has yet to bill for transport calls covered by those services.

The Medicare number was applied for in July and Whitty expects the number to be issued within the next 30 days. After the Medicare number is obtained, the city can then apply for its Medicaid provider number.

According to Whitty, the city can go back and bill for Medicare covered transport calls up to a year after the call. However, the city can only go back 90 days for Medicaid covered calls. Whitty said he expects the city will lose some revenue by not being able to bill for some Medicaid covered calls in August.

At the meeting, Alderman Jim Martuscello asked if there were any unexpected expenses associated with the new service.

Whitty said, “We buy a lot of stuff from St. Mary’s Hostpital – whether it’s supplies or medications. They are now billing us for the medications, where before they weren’t.”

Whitty said he was not sure of the reason for the change, but said that the city can add the expense for medications used during each call to the insurance bill.

Martuscello also asked if there were any staffing changes at the fire department due to the operation of the new service.

Whitty replied that the only change he see is that if an ambulance is transporting a patient to an out-of-town hospital, two additional officers are called in to cover the two officers in the ambulance. Before the service began, only a single fire department officer would usually accompany a patient in a GAVAC ambulance to an out-of-town hospital, so only one additional officer would need to be called in to cover.

However, Whitty said that most out-of-town transports are advanced life support calls which the city can bill between $1,100 to $1,300 for, which more than compensates for the extra staffing cost to cover the one extra officer being away for approximately two hours.

Alderman Chad Majewski, who is also the Public Safety Committee Chairman, said he is pleased with the operation of the service so far, and will call another meeting to review revenues in another month’s time.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.