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February 13. 2014 9:51PM

Hudson selectmen reject ambulance billing rate hike

HUDSON — A move by the Hudson Fire Department to increase its ambulance billing rate was unanimously rejected by the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night.

Hudson Fire Chief Robert Buxton said increasing the town's ambulance billing rate by switching from standard Medicare rate plus 30 percent to Medicare plus 50 percent would increase revenue by $25,000 next year.

Had the board approved the change, the rate increase would have gone into effect March 1.

But several board members expressed concern that the price hike would come with some serious side effects for the town's most vulnerable citizens.

"We have a lot of hardship cases here in our town," Selectman Roger Coutu said. "And a lot of them are too proud — they'll suffer quietly before asking for help."

"I've seen too many people that have to use half their Social Security check to fill their oil tank," Coutu added. "That's why I can't support raising increasing ambulance fees to 50 percent."

Buxton said Hudson's ambulance rates are considerably lower than state average and a 20 percent increase wouldn't change that.

"We're triple digits below what an average bill would be for an insured person," he said.

Right now, the average ambulance bill in Hudson is $554. The Hudson Fire Department made a total of 150 ambulance transports last year.

The town of Hooksett's average charge for an emergency ambulance trip is $538, according to statistics compiled by the NH Ambulance Association (NHAA).

Average charge for the town of Raymond is $518 and average charge for Greenland is $552. All three towns are in the state's bottom 10 percent based on average charge per emergency transport, according to the NHAA.

Hudson fire officials noted, however, that there are plenty of other communities whose averages run closer to $1,100. Goffstown, Bedford, Windham and Portsmouth bill citizens at rates of 50 to 75 percent above Medicare.

The town of Hudson has been billing ambulance users at the current 30 percent rate for the past four years, according to the fire chief.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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