2017-03-21 / Front Page

Alfred, county at odds over rescue reimbursements

Senior Staff Writer

ALFRED — The town of Alfred sends its ambulance to York County Jail when called, but selectmen say the amount the town is reimbursed by the county isn’t enough and is resulting in a shortfall.

Selectmen have been looking for support from other communities in their quest to be more adequately reimbursed. The issue has erupted largely in emails — selectmen have been writing to their counterparts in the county’s 28 other municipalities, outlining their concerns.

In one email, selectmen noted that in 2015, Alfred Rescue responded to 44 calls to York County Jail, and billed $17, 565. Selectmen wrote they tried to get billing information for the inmates  involved, but most “had no insurance, savings or little incentive to pay their bills,” selectmen wrote. The town collected $6,245, leaving an $11,320 shortfall that selectmen said fell solely on the shoulders of Alfred taxpayers. 

“It is a cost that should be shared by all of us,” selectmen wrote.

Selectmen wrote that in 2016, Alfred Rescue responded to 59 calls at York County Jail, sent invoices of nearly $32,000 and received $8,014 in payment, resulting in a shortfall of nearly $24,000 — or one percent of the town’s municipal budget.

“We pay our fair share into the county, but it is grossly unfair for Alfred to bear any additional burden funding county government,” selectmen wrote.

The county pays the MaineCare rate as outlined in Title 30-A of Maine statutes that say, “A county may pay to a provider of a medical service for a prisoner an amount no greater than the reimbursement rate applicable to that provider and that service as established by rule of the Department of Health and Human Services for the MaineCare program under Title 22.”

County commissioners last week said they were willing to listen to concerns about the issue, but pointed out that appointments by an Alfred selectmen to address the commissioners about the matter have been postponed by Alfred, twice. On Wednesday, commissioners said it was their understanding Alfred selectmen have decided against meeting with the county board.

“We want to know what it is they requesting from commissioners,” said County Manager Greg Zinser.

“I’m willing to listen, but if the party aggrieved doesn’t want to come in to explain..... we’re willing to listen, but we can’t have a one-way conversation,” said Commissioner Richard Clark.

Alfred selectmen’s board Chairman George Donovan said the county government is well aware of the issue and that he and another selectman discussed it with Zinser and Commissioner  Mike Cote a year ago. 

Cote on Monday said he remembers having a conversation with Alfred selectmen last fall about  rescue reimbursements as they relate to the county’s proposed detox and residential drug rehabilitation center on the jail property. He said he doesn’t remember having a conversation about rescue calls to the jail itself, but said he too, is willing to listen.

“I’d like to know exactly what the want,” he said.

Cote said he also wonders when a municipality’s responsibility for a prisoner ends and when the county’s responsibility begins.

“If  (the arrestee) doesn’t make it in the front door (of the jail) and an ambulance is called, is it the county’s responsibility or the municipality,” Cote said he wonders.

Donovan said anyone responding to county calls should be paid the going rate.

“It costs just as much to roll the ambulance down there (to the jail) for whatever reason as it does to roll it to your or my house. So why should we be penalized?” he asked.

Donovan said selectmen are discussing the issue and are  particularly concerned about additional municipal expense for ambulance runs should the drug detox and rehabilitation planned by the county and York County Shelters be established.

The matter has surfaced before.  In 2003, the county paid a fee to Alfred for ambulance calls to the jail  — $250 per jail call for assistance and standing-by until it is determined whether the patient needs hospital transport, and $500 per call to transport a patient within 40 miles of Alfred. That contract expired on Dec. 31, 2004. In March 2005, Alfred was looking for a contract renewal, but commissioners at the time cited the state law passed in 2003.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.

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