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EMS changes said to save big bucks

Albany County will not go through Bethlehem for insurance repayment

Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson announces the new contract agreements that will save taxpayers and the town money in providing Advanced Life Support services to residents, while county paramedics and town EMS providers look on.

Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson announces the new contract agreements that will save taxpayers and the town money in providing Advanced Life Support services to residents, while county paramedics and town EMS providers look on. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— The Town of Bethlehem and Albany County have reworked contracts with providers of emergency medical services in a way officials say could save thousands every year.

The new contracts now allow Albany County to directly bill Medicare when it provides paramedics during emergencies. These paramedics assist ambulances in providing Advanced Life Support services when they respond.

“In the past, we’ve only been able to bill on the Basic Life Support (or transportation) side of the service,” said Town Board Member and Chairman of the District Board of Ambulance Commissioners George Lenhardt. “This elevates the level of bill back. The taxpayers will receive a higher amount back and it will mitigate the cost.”

The town currently contracts with the county to provide ALS services to residents during emergencies. This year’s contract cost the town taxpayers about $766,000. The wording in previous contracts did not allow the county to bill third-party providers of those needing ALS services. Since the insurance companies and other providers can now be billed for this higher level of service, the net cost to the Bethlehem taxpayers will be reduced.

It is still unknown how much could be saved by the town, but officials believe it is in the six-figure range.

“We can’t predict how much money we lost over the last two years, but I can tell you from this day on we have the potential of saving well over $200,000,” said County Executive Dan McCoy. The savings could stretch as high as $300,000, he said.

Town officials and Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple have been working on an agreement to get the contracts signed since former Town Supervisor Sam Messina was in office. In November of 2011, the town was told the costs of providing ALS services through county paramedics would increase by 8 percent for the 2012 budget. It was then decided that changes needed to be made.

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