Deerfield Valley Rescue deals with obstacles
WILMINGTON — Deerfield Valley Rescue is hoping to see some changes.
Medicaid only pays ambulance services 43 percent of what Medicare allows, Deerfield Valley Rescue Business Administrator Heidi Taylor told the Wilmington Select Board on Wednesday, noting that most physicians get 80 percent of what Medicare allows.
"Two years ago, our Medicaid population was 6 percent. Today, it's 12 percent. And we're low. Rescue Inc.'s increased by 30 percent," said Taylor, referring to the Brattleboro-based ambulance service. "Last year, we wrote off $77,000 for Medicaid. That's for the percentage we're not getting. That's a lot for a business to be writing off."
The Legislature was approached on increasing the rate. But now the group could be facing a provider tax, which would essentially cancel out the requested increase. Taylor said they are fighting that.
Narcan, the drug used to reverse opiate overdose, is another issue. Before, the ambulance service was getting it for about $12 per dose. Now it costs $44. And the ambulance service is mandated to carry it.
The state supplies Narcan to police departments, addicts, families of addicts and schools.
"Guess who doesn't get it?" Taylor said. "We don't."
The private nonprofit serves seven towns. Taylor said the group went on 884 calls last year and 300 of them were in Wilmington.
"We charge for transports. We do not charge for non-transports. We bill insurance companies and balance-bill patients that their insurance doesn't cover it. We do an annual subscription drive. Last year, we sent out 1,490 to local residents. We received back 238. We sent 2,048 to out-of-state and received back 288," Taylor said of the program that allows subscribers to get a discount if they ever need ambulance services. "I think people get them and toss them in the trash."
Currently, the group has 23 active volunteers, three full-time paid employees and three part-time employees. Volunteers receive $24 for on-call shifts usually lasting 12 hours. If they go on a call and transport someone, they receive a $20 stipend.
When it comes to municipal-impact input for the state's Act 250 permitting process, Taylor said her group is "always asked to the table" in Dover but is only asked to weigh in "sporadically" in Wilmington.
"Our goal is to basically plagiarize or copy what Dover is doing and put everybody at the table," said Select Board Vice Chairman John Gannon, explaining that would be addressed as the Wilmington board is beginning to look at updating the way the town provides input for Act 250 applications.
Deerfield Valley Rescue also brought up access to KNOX-BOX systems. Currently, the group doesn't have access to businesses in Wilmington using the rapid-entry system made for emergency access to commercial and residential properties. But the group can get into properties using the system in Dover.
Wilmington Fire Chief Ken March said access within the fire department was limited to himself and the assistant chief. He told the board he feels "very uncomfortable" giving keys to people he does not know.
Board members said they would look into pricing for getting "sub-master" keys made as was done in Dover.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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