HomeHaddonfield NewsBorough releases statement on EMS Billing Ordinance

Borough releases statement on EMS Billing Ordinance

Borough commissioners review the history of EMS billing in Haddonfield in preparation for the ordinance's second reading on July 25.

The following is a statement from the Borough of Haddonfield.

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On Monday, June 27, 2022, the Board of Commissioners introduced an Ordinance that amends Chapter 23 of the Borough Code to give the Borough oversight of the billing for Emergency Medical Services. The decision comes after more than two years of work to review financials, operational issues, and billing problems, as the Borough also grapples with increased costs for paid EMS services, volunteer firefighter shortages, and recent disruptions in third-party billing services. 

“The Borough has an obligation, first and foremost, to save lives and promote the health and safety of our residents,” Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich said. Bianco Bezich, who also serves as Director of Public Affairs & Public Safety, characterized this change as being fiscally responsible while simultaneously increasing protections for taxpayers and enabling the Borough to increase support for its first responders. 

The Haddonfield Ambulance Association (HAA) had provided the Borough with volunteer emergency medical services (EMS) for many years, but an EMT volunteer crisis led the Borough to implement a paid staffing program years ago. The Borough has since budgeted salaries and benefits for EMS personnel, totaling over $700,000 in 2021. 

Despite the change to a paid department, the billing for EMS had been delegated to the HAA, which was required to reimburse the Borough $200,000 annually pursuant to an agreement between the parties. Importantly, the HAA failed to make its full payment of $200,000 to the Borough in 2021, despite having over $1.8 million in its accounts. 

Between 2020 and 2021, the HAA’s income from billing decreased approximately eight percent, from $225,626 to $208,204. This decrease in income occurred despite an increase in call volume and a reduction in the fee paid to its third-party administrator (TPA) from nine percent to 5.5 percent. 

At issue recently was the HAA’s unilateral decision to approve a paid stipend program for additional Borough EMS personnel and the authorization to fund such a program at $180,000 without prior Borough consultation or approval. However, the reality is that a volunteer firefighter shortage (not a paid EMS staff shortage) is the most pressing public safety challenge facing Borough staff and officials.

When the Borough requested that $180,000 to implement a different program on May 24, 2022, the HAA refused to provide the funding. Moreover, the Borough learned from a third party that the HAA’s TPA, DM Billing, is slated to be out of business as of July 31, creating additional practical and financial hardships for Borough staff in 2022. 

The HAA has a long history of active civic participation and generosity. It continues to provide supplies and equipment to the Borough’s Police and Fire Depts. and has purchased ambulances for the Borough EMS staff. 

“Our two organizations have a long-standing, symbiotic relationship that can continue, even though it may be different than in years past,” Bianco Bezich said. “Change is difficult, especially in organizations as old as ours, but we can’t let that prevent us from making decisions for the good of the larger community.” 

According to Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough, this decision cuts out the ‘middleman’.

“The HAA can continue its annual fundraising campaigns as it always has. It can still partner with the Borough to support our first responders,” McCullough said. “But, instead of receiving that $200,000 from its TPA and turning it over to the Borough, the Borough will now work directly with a TPA to have better oversight and ensure that disruptions in service and financial losses do not continue.” 

The revisions to the Borough code will also enable the Borough to set rates in accordance with industry standards that comport with insurance company reimbursement rates. 

“This will generate more revenue,” according to McCullough. “And, if there is a shortfall or problems such as the HAA and its TPA had recently, the Borough won’t be left in the dark.” 

Moving forward, the Borough would utilize a competitive, fair and open process in accordance with New Jersey Law to select its TPA. 

The second reading and public hearing on the ordinance amending Chapter 23 will be held on Monday, July 25, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. In the interim, Bianco Bezich remains available to meet with members of the HAA as a Board and/or individually, including Dr.  R. Blaber, who has spoken with her multiple times since speaking publicly at the Board of Commissioners meeting on June 27, 2022. Bianco Bezich also invited HAA members to attend the upcoming Board of Commissioner meetings on July 11 and 25.


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