City of Johnstown ambulance service up and running

Billing company gives presentation to council

Certified Ambulance Group Inc. President Mark Gentile addresses the Johnstown Common Council with a billing proposal Tuesday night at City Hall. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Common Council on Tuesday night took no action on a proposal from a Connecticut firm, which wishes to handle billing for the city’s ambulance service.

Certified Ambulance Group, Inc. of Weathersfield, Conn. gave a presentation at City Hall. It was also noted during the session that the city’s new one-vehicle ambulance service — run out of the city Fire Department on North Perry Street — is operational again after some liability insurance issues.

Certified Ambulance Group President Mark Gentile offered his firm’s emergency medical services’ billing opportunities for the city.

Gentile said his 23-person company is small, but offers a “diverse” package to municipalities.

“It will do all the billing to all the medical insurance companies,” he told the council. “We only go for emergency providers.”

Gentile said Certified Ambulance Group has been in business since 1989 and has accounts in 13 states. He said the firm operates as far west as Iowa and as far south as Texas, with 172 clients.

“One solution is not always for everybody, every municipality,” he said. “Our foundation is always customer service.”

Gentile addressed the human aspect of needing an ambulance, with ambulance customers “meeting you at the worst time of their day.” He said Certified Ambulance Group wants its municipal clients to be held in “high esteem” by its ambulance users. But he said bills will maximize revenues, as his firm bills private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. He said a 3 percent discount is offered to those who pay by the 15th of the month.

He said his company can start billing private providers “immediately,” within three to six weeks. With Medicare, he said the turnaround time can be three to four months, with Medicaid a couple months later.

Gentile said fees are based on the geographical area. For instance, this area would be based on billing in the Amsterdam, Little Falls, Schoharie County areas, he said. He said his firm tries to ensure it is “not too high and too low” in billing. He said that if people don’t pay immediately, three statements are issued within a 75-day period.

“We also understand some people can’t afford the ambulance,” Gentile said.

After the third invoice, he said Certified Ambulance Group caters to the municipality’s “wishes” on pursuit of payment.

Fire Chief Bruce Heberer said city ambulance users will get a bill, adding: “But we will not go after them.”

The council also discussed how some people call ambulances even if there isn’t an emergency. Gentile said a “treat and release” program may go into effect by 2020 in which Medicare patients won’t be taken to a hospital right away if the EMTs deem the situation a non-emergency.

“That’s a chronic problem nationwide,” Gentile said.

Heberer noted that firefighter James McCredie is in charge of the city ambulance unit.

“He’s doing a fantastic job,’ Heberer said.

The city in January started a new one-vehicle ambulance service — run out of the city Fire Department on North Perry Street — but it was taken out of service on Jan. 15 due to liability insurance concerns. But it was put back in operation after the Ambulance Service of Fulton County shut down Feb. 8.

Heberer thanked Mayor Vern Jackson noting, “We needed to get the ambulance up and running.”

Jackson thanked Fulton County Emergency Management Director Steve Santa Maria for his work in putting together a plan to deal with the Ambulance Service of Fulton County shut down.

McCredie told the council that since the city ambulance service began, it has handled 63 calls in 20 days.

“We’ve been busy,” he said. “There’s been a need for us.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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