By Jano Tantongco
The Town of Huntington plans to reduce funding for the Huntington Community First Aid Squad from $2.18 million in 2016 to $856,535 in 2017, according to the town’s 2017 preliminary budget released last week. The decrease in funding comes as the squad plans to switch to a system where it will charge patients for forms of life support, and rides in ambulances.
The contractual agreement between the town and squad saw the biggest, and only, decrease in funding. The preliminary budget shows that the agreement is for $200,000 for 2017, down from this year’s $1.58-million agreement.
There are planned increases in funding, too, such as bumps in retirement funding from $450,000 to $500,000, and interfund transfers from $149,819 to $154,035.
Huntington Town spokesman A.J. Carter said the decreased funding “reflects” the squad’s plans to start billing patients that it services throughout its coverage area, which spans Lloyd Harbor and Lloyd Neck in the north, to Melville in the south, and from the Nassau/Suffolk border and Cold Spring Harbor in the west to Greenlawn and Dix Hills in the east.
The squad also recently started hiring paid paramedics for the first time.
The Huntington Town Board voted Sept. 27 to allow the HCFAS to bill and collect user fees. The fee schedule is as follows: $775 for Basic Life Support, $1,050 for Advanced Life Support 1 and $1,250 for Advanced Life Support 2. There will also be a charge of $25 per mile that a patient rides in an ambulance.
“The procedure for billing will depend on the billing company we choose and our input,” said Andrea Golinsky, a squad spokeswoman. “We are in the process of collecting bids from different billing companies and have not made any decisions or set procedures as yet.”
Golinsky anticipates that the bill would be sent to insurance company and/or Medicare and Medicaid, then the co-payment request will be sent to the patient.
“It’s a whole new field for us. We’re trying to reach out and talk to different departments and see how they’re handling it, who they’re using.”
Regarding specific change in the squad’s funding detailed in the preliminary budget, Golinsky said HCFAS President John Palmieri would not comment until he has reviewed the budget and spoken with Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone.