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Ambulances Corps Propose Third-Party Billing

Would get insurance companies to cover expenses instead of taxpayers with no reduction in services.

Members of the boards of directors of the town’s ambulance corps showed solidarity at the Southampton Town Board work session on Friday when they asked the board to help them to save taxpayers some money.

“There’s a million dollars out there,” said Ronnie Hintze, of Flanders-Northampton Volunteer Ambulance.

His proposal, backed up by Sarah Floege, also a board member of Flanders Ambulance, and Bill Sommer, a member of the board of the , was to have the town switch to a “third-party payer,” a company contracted by the town to collect payment for ambulance services from the insurance companies of the patients.

This way, they argued, rather than tax dollars paying for first responder services, insurance companies would.

Under the proposed plan, uninsured people would still be cared for and not receive a bill. But those with insurance policies would have their insurance companies reimburse the town for the ambulance services.

With this system, Hintze said, his ambulance company’s budget would be cut between one quarter and one third.

Hintze added all of Nassau County uses a third-party payer system, as do Upstate special taxing districts, like volunteer ambulance corps and volunteer fire departments. He said Southampton used to, but the town board voted to discontinue it.

Members of the town board were interested in the suggestion and questioned the willingness of other fire departments and ambulance corps to join together, given past resistance to the idea.

At this stage, the ambulance companies are submitting budgets for next year with no increases. They are avoiding a major expense this year by having the town borrow to pay over time for upgrades to their radio systems that are required by the FCC.

The town must submit its preliminary budget by Friday and is facing a $5.1 million shortfall, town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. The budget is further complicated by recent legislation passed in Albany restricting an increase in the tax levy to 2 percent. Further, the legislation is “murky,” Throne-Holst said, about whether special taxing districts are included in the town’s cap, or have one of their own.

Scott Johnson, the executive director of , presented the board with the organization’s 2011-12 budget, which calls for $946,758 in spending. SYS is working to be self-sufficient, he said, using fundraisers and income generated by camps, classes and rental fees.

At the next town board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 6 p.m., the board will hear from the public on three proposals: reducing the of the zoning board of appeals and the planning board from seven to five, and on changing the code regarding petitioning for the designation of a ; it would now require 20 percent of residents in an area to agree, instead of 100 percent.

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