NY volunteer FDs seek right to send bills for EMS calls

Volunteer fire companies foot the bill for everything associated with an ambulance, which he estimated comes in between $160,000 and $200,000


Connor Hoffman
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, N.Y.

Volunteer firefighting companies are calling on the state legislature to pass a law that would allow them to charge for the ambulance services that they provide.

Last week, the Firemen's Association of the State of New York and its members held a legislative outreach event at the Cambria Volunteer Fire Hall to vouch for such a bill. Assembly Member Michael Norris and Sen. Rob Ortt were both present at the event.

Ed Tase of Lockport, second vice chair of FASNY, said about 90 percent of the calls fielded by volunteer fire services are ambulance-related.

Tase said volunteer fire companies foot the bill for everything associated with an ambulance, which he estimated comes in between $160,000 and $200,000. Fire companies would just like to recoup their costs, he said.

"The supplies for an ambulance are expensive," Tase said.

Currently, volunteer fire companies are covering their ambulance costs through fundraisers. One of the biggest fundraisers, gun raffle, may be outlawed by New York State, according to Tase.

Tase believes the state will understand the value that volunteer fire companies provide and adopt legislation to help them. He pointed to a 2015 study by FASNY that found it would cost $3.3 billion in taxes to replace the services provided by volunteer companies.

"So we do have a value to the state and we’re just asking for some help to keep us afloat," Tase said.

Ambulance services such as Twin City Ambulance do service rural areas, but they charge more than volunteer fire companies would like, Tase said. He estimates their average bill runs between $700 and $1,000.

"Our numbers wouldn't be that high," Tase said. "We're just trying to recoup our costs, so we don't have to constantly have these chicken barbecues and what not."

Tase, a member of South Lockport Volunteer Fire Company, said that company used to own two ambulances, but had to get rid of one because of the cost to operate it.

Both Norris and Ortt have expressed their support for a measure allowing volunteer fire companies to bill for ambulance service.

Norris is a cosponsor of Assembly bill A01778, introduced this past January, which would authorize EMS-providing fire companies to establish fees and charges for services and allow health insurer payments to non-preferred ambulance service providers.

Ortt signaled his support in a prepared statement that linked the issue with other proposed state legislation that would prohibit the award of firearms, as well as alcoholic beverages, as prizes in games of chance.

"Volunteer fire companies and EMS providers are the lifelines in many rural parts of western New York. With the recruitment and retention of volunteers becoming more difficult, we must find a way to allow these fire companies to remain viable," Ortt said. "At a time when New York Democrats are looking to cripple volunteer fundraising efforts through anti-gun raffle legislation, allowing volunteer companies to bill insurance agencies for the medical services they provide would create a new and vital source of revenue."

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©2019 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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