Ambulance fees rise in Marion
MARION — Marion hiked up its billing rates for ambulance services for the first time in eight years on Tuesday night.
After leaving emergency transport fees untouched since 2013, the Board of Selectmen unanimously accepted a fee increase that would bring rates for privately insured ambulance trips up to the regional average, as advised by Fire Chief Brian Jackvony at an April 6 Selectmen’s meeting.
“Over the last fiscal year, we have seen a decrease in our revenues from [Emergency Medical Service] billing,” Jackvony said, “and that was mostly due to the pandemic.”
Emergency transports dropped from a high of 633 in 2019 to 503 in 2020, Jackvony said, and the accompanying fiscal impact pushed him to look at the rates of surrounding communities.
Marion stood out as the lowest on a county-wide list of EMS fees, with a Basic Life Support transport fee of $851, according to Town Administrator Jay McGrail.
The approved fee hike will raise Basic Life Support rates to $1,379 — matching the average Plymouth County rate reported in November 2020. Additional fees will also apply to Advanced Life Support transports and transport mileage.
The increased billing rate remains almost $300 less than that of Abington, which topped the Plymouth County list at $1,650.
Ambulance service hikes will not apply to individuals insured through Medicare or Medicaid, Jackvony said, because these federal programs cap fees for both Basic and Advanced Life Support transports.
Marion is also on the low side for other passive town service rates, Selectman John Waterman said, including rates for water main connection and cemeteries. He advised the Selectmen to create a system that periodically considers all such services to ensure town fees match regional averages.
Though the Selectmen said the ambulance fee increase was long overdue, it does come in the midst of a global pandemic that rages despite vaccine distribution. However, McGrail said the town is determined to assist any resident who finds themselves in dire financial straits.
“You know, when the people call up, they’re not going to ask for price,” Board Chair Randy Parker said. “They need an ambulance.”
In situations where an individual is unable to pay, the medical billing company automatically passes the uncollected bill on to the Town Administrator. McGrail can then waive fees for anyone with demonstrated financial hardship. It is a scenario, McGrail said, that has played out a handful of times in the past few years.
“We’re here for residents if they need help with that,” McGrail said. “They just need to reach out.”