Trending Topics

N.Y. fire company seeks city approval for ambulance transport billing

Officials with the Wendelville Volunteer Fire Company wait on Pendleton lawmakers to decide on insurance billing

By Benjamin Joe
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

PENDLETON, N.Y. — Firefighters and EMTs with Wendelville Volunteer Fire Company are asking the Pendleton Town Board for authority to bill ambulance patients’ insurance for their services.

"(In) the past, the volunteer fire departments were not able, and could not legally, charge for ambulance transport,” Joe Riester, president of Wendelville Fire Co., said. “In 2022 there was a law that was passed that no longer prohibited fire departments from billing for ambulance and emergency rescue services.”

Riester said the state law, which took effect in July 2022, allows for “soft billing” by volunteer first responder companies.

“Soft billing basically allows for a billing service to send over a bill for service to a patient’s insurance. We will accept what the insurance company pays for this debt. Non-residents of the Town of Pendleton will receive a bill for their deductible and this will be billed for 90 days and after 90 days that debt would be written off,” Riester said. “We’re not going to be calling people up and following up and harassing them to pay the bill. It’s soft billing.”

Pendleton residents would not receive a bill for their deductible amount, because a portion of their annual town tax payment goes to the fire company.

“Their insurance will be billed and we’ll accept whatever the insurance company provides. We’re not double dipping and charging (the deductible),” Riester said.

According to Riester, Wendelville company transports approximately 150 people by ambulance annually. Some calls are “not that bad” and they do not transport, he said; other times a call involves “a larger medical issue” and Wendelville calls on Twin City Ambulance to provide transport with Advanced Life Saving (ALS) vehicles. Wendelville offers only Basic Life Saving (BLS) transport.

Several other fire companies that run ambulances in Niagara County have started doing soft billing, including Rapids VFC, Riester said.

Pendleton resident Annmarie Reeb told this reporter after the town board meeting that she’s concerned insurance companies would bill residents for their deductible amount after transport, not knowing they didn’t have to pay.

The board is expected to vote on the Wendelville company’s request during its Oct. 23 work session.

(c)2023 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.)
Visit the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.