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Money for Goffstown ambulance is sought

GOFFSTOWN - A proposed policy by the Goffstown Fire Department would increase fees charged for ambulance services and address patient billing and collections for delinquent accounts.

Fire Chief Richard O'Brien presented the policy proposal to selectmen Monday, outlining plans to increase fees for ambulance services to the Medicare rate plus 35 percent, up from the current fee of the Medicare rate plus 20 percent.

Fees for such services as Basic Life Support, Advanced Life Support, Specialty Care Transport and mileage would also be added as necessary.

"We need to adjust the way we establish our rates," O'Brien said, in order to be in compliance with the Affordable Care Act and to meet best practice standards for finance auditing.

O'Brien said his goal is to make sure there are enough money to sustain ambulance services.

"We need to look at it in a more assertive fashion," he said. "We need to be able to maintain our system and fund it."

Currently, revenues from ambulance billing are placed in the town's EMS Special Revenue fund for the purpose of maintaining ambulance service operations. The town collected $430,000 last year, O'Brien said.

One of the factors that drove the creation of the policy was an audit from 2011 that showed $337,000 in uncollected revenues for ambulance services, with $234,000 of that for accounts more than 120 days overdue.

"In plain English, there are a lot of old accounts out there," said Don Borror, the town's finance director.

O'Brien pointed out that the figure includes accounts dating to 2004 and 2005.

Balances that remain after payment by Medicare or Medicaid, which are not always aggressively pursued by the town, are included in that figure, O'Brien said.

In addition, O'Brien said nearly 30 percent of patients receiving ambulance services are without insurance or covered by Medicaid, in which the town is unlikely to receive the balance due.

The policy would give the department a method of collecting outstanding balances, while providing guidelines for hardship cases, and would also help determine whether an account is sent to a collection agency, reported to a credit bureau, or absorbed by the town.

Selectmen will review the final draft of the policy at their scheduled meeting on March 4.

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