A trip in one of Southborough’s two ambulances is going to cost you — or your insurance company — more money. Selectmen voted unanimously last week to increase fees for ambulance services to bring them more in line with neighboring communities.
Currently the Fire Department charges Medicare costs plus 30%. With the selectmen vote last week, those fees will increase to Medicare plus 100%. Fire Chief John Mauro Jr. said area communities are “all over the ballpark” in what they charge for ambulance services, but most are in the range of Medicare plus 100% to Medicare plus 200%.
“The proposal is not radical, it’s within the realm of what other communities are doing or are considering doing,” Selectman Sal Giorlandino said.
“Your hospital bill isn’t limited to what Medicare pays,” Selectman Bill Boland said.
Mauro said most private insurance companies pay more than the Medicare rate for ambulance services. Patients with Medicare would likely have to pay the rate increase out-of-pocket, but Mauro said the fire department has the option to waive the balance for patients who are unable to pay.
Mauro said after the meeting that the ambulance program currently brings in about $276K annually. The new rates will add an estimated $87K more. But he said it still won’t make the ambulance program, which costs about $436K a year to run, self-sufficient.
Mauro said some in the community have called for privatizing the ambulance service in Southborough as a way to save money, but his analysis suggests that in a small community like ours, it’s more cost-effective for the town to provide ambulance services.
Mauro said communities similar in size to Southborough pay a private ambulance company anywhere from $450K-$650K for a single ambulance. Southborough currently operates two ambulances.
“Private ambulance companies aren’t in the business for the goodness of their heart. They’re in the business to make money,” he said.
Mauro said the fire department can provide ambulance services less expensively because firefighters are cross-trained as paramedics and EMTs. “It’s almost two people for the price of one,” he said.
In voting to accept the Medicare plus 100% cost structure, selectman said they would revisit the program in a year to see how it’s working.