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April 02. 2014 10:43PM

Selectman criticizes town's ambulance billing services

SALEM — Selectman Stephen Campbell brought a dispute about an ambulance bill for his mother before the board earlier this week.

Speaking as a private citizen, Campbell said he had serious concerns about Comstar, the town's third-party billing agency for ambulance services provided by the town's fire department.

While Campbell questioned the competence of the billing agency and said he was concerned that other residents might be getting overbilled, Town Manager Keith Hickey said Comstar acted properly in the situation regarding Campbell's mother.

"My family got a bill from the town's third-party biller on ambulance bills on Friday afternoon," said Campbell. "Unfortunately, my family has had to use the ambulance a number of times, and every single time (the bill) has been taken care of by insurance."

On the latest occasion, however, Campbell said his mother received a bill for just over $94. After his mother gave him the bill, Campbell said he called Comstar to try to figure out why his mother was billed this time.

Campbell said he called the customer service number for Comstar and that the person who worked for the company could not explain why the latest bill wasn't paid.

"I have a personal policy where if someone can't tell me why I owe them money, I won't pay them," said Campbell. "Particularly when I have the understanding that it has already been paid by the insurance company."

Beyond the personal issue of the ambulance bill, Campbell said he is more concerned that there is a third-party billing company working on behalf of the town that cannot properly explain why his mother or other citizens might be receiving some bills.

"As a citizen, I want to bring it to the board's attention that the third-party biller is clueless," said Campbell.

Hickey said he got a call from Campbell expressing many of the same concerns he raised to the selectmen.

"Shortly after the call, I reached out to Fire Chief Kevin Breen to make him aware of the concern and asked him to look into it," said Hickey. Hickey said there was a balance on the bill because Medicare had denied the initial claim and that the secondary health insurance carrier for Campbell's mother (which is also the town's insurance carrier) had not had the opportunity to process the second bill. Hickey said he expected the bill would be taken care of in the near future.

"As far as Comstar is concerned, I vehemently deny most of the comments made by Selectman Campbell," said Hickey.

According to Hickey, Comstar could not comment to Campbell when he called because of HIPAA medical privacy laws.

"Mr. Campbell was made aware of that by my understanding," said Hickey. He added that he would not normally take up the selectmen's time responding to the charges made by Campbell, but said he wanted to make the other side of the story known.

Hickey said he believes both Comstar and the town's health insurance provider are working well on behalf of the town.

Responding to Hickey, Campbell said that when he called Comstar, HIPAA was never brought up.

"If they wanted to speak to my mother, she was there at the house," said Campbell. "As far as not being able to speak to me, they had no problem speaking to me. This just goes to show what goes on and what is being told to the town manager is not my recollection."

Campbell said the bill should never have gone to his mother in the first place and that he is concerned other residents will pay bills that they do not have to pay.

"No one went one inch beyond the minimum with what they were going to do, and there was a problem," said Campbell.


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