BURLINGTON – It took almost one decade, but the longtime ambulance rates in town will increase from the figures they were last set at in 2013.
At its most recent meeting, the Board of Selectmen approved a request from the Fire Department to increase the rates from +150 percent to +300 percent. The +150 percent had been the rate since 2013.
Fire Chief Steven Yetman and Assistant Fire Chief Michael Patterson briefed the board as to why the request was being presented.
Besides not changing the rates since 2013, the department is now providing Advanced Life Support (ALS) service and they want to make sure they’re changing to the “most applicable and recent rates” possible. Also, it is very likely new legislation could be passed at the state level, which will prevent a community’s ability to increase ambulance rates.
“The proposed legislation would cap ambulance billing rates in Massachusetts,” explained Assistant Chief Patterson. “We do not want to be stuck at our 2013 rates because our ambulance call volume has increased in recent years, as has our expenses to serve those by ambulance calls.”
The rate increase will only directly affect those residents covered by private insurance, which makes up less than one-third of the community. Those not impacted by the increase include people covered by Medicare and facilities contracted rates, both of which make up more than two-thirds of the insurance coverage in town.
People concerned about paying more can take solace in knowing that an abatement process will continue to exist, so a specific payment procedure can make the cost burden more manageable.
Even with the +300 percent hike, Burlington will continue to have some of the lowest rates in the area.
“[Burlington] has the second lowest rates in the area,” detailed Chief Yetman. “I feel we need to be up to the standards of our surrounding communities.”
Chief Yetman noted that several of the surrounding communities currently at +300 percent will be asking for an increase within the upcoming year.
The Selectmen expressed no concern in terms of supporting the increase, yet they always convey hesitation anytime a scenario arises when residents have to pay more for a service.
“Our ambulance runs have never been this high, so the timing and need are clearly there,” Selectman Chair Joseph Morandi declared in support. “None of us like raising rates, but this is something we need to do as a town.”
Selectman Robert Hogan also voiced his favorable opinion on the ambulance rates.
“The timing of this is right on target,” Selectman Hogan professed. “We need to get this done, and get it done smart.”
The Selectmen approved the +300 percent ambulance rate increase by a 4-0-1 vote. Selectman Michael Runyan abstained because he is a member of the Fire Department.