RVES seeks $ help


By Jim Poole

Although most local rescue squads struggle to find members, the Richmondville Volunteer Emergency Squad has a more pressing issue:
Almost all local rescue squads depend on funds from town or village governments. But of the 13 squads in Schoharie County, only RVES receives no tax dollars, according to President Scott Bennett and paramedic Ed Hillenbrand.
To that end, they've approach ed Richmondville village and town officials for help, and those officials said they're willing to listen.
A special public meeting to explain the issues will be at 7pm August 11 at the RVES station. The town board meets that night at 6pm, and Mr. Bennett said board members are welcome at the RVES meeting at 7.
Besides local fundraising and community support, RVES gets much of its income by "soft billing" patients, receiving reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.
A shift on insurance changed that. Since the federal Affordable Care Act, co-pays and deductibles are higher for patients, meaning they must pay more of the costs.
Often, they can't.
Mr. Hillenbrand said RVES reimbursement averages $153 per patient, a sharp decrease from past years.
And, "if people don't have insurance, we don't get anything," Mr. Bennett said.
In soft billing, a company sends out several bills to patients. RVES members believe they shouldn't be aggressive in pursuing payment because many people simply can't pay.
"We're not going to send people to court for collections," Mr. Bennett said.
RVES' annual budget is about $60,000 for insurance, medical supplies, maintaining the ambulance, accounting services and other costs.
RVES has spent about $28,000 so far this year, Mr. Hillenbrand said, and has taken in just $11,883.
Insurance and workers' compensation are the key costs.
"If one of those is in jeopardy, we'd" have to consider closing our doors, Mr. Bennett said.
RVES isn't at that stage yet, but Mr. Bennett and Mr. Hillenbrand fear that day could come. If so, Richmondville would be served by rescue squads in Summit and/or Cobleskill or the private AMS service.
"You could be in shock or suffering a stroke and have to wait 15 or 20 minutes," Mr. Hillenbrand said.
Ideally, Mr. Bennett would like to see $30,000 total from the village and town, but he knows that's unrealistic.
"If we got maybe $3,000 from each, then talked about it every year, that would help," he said.
RVES met with town Supervisor Dick Lape several times, and village Mayor Kevin Neary is aware of RVES' trouble.
Both are sympathetic, though Mr. Lape noted that the state-imposed tax cap may be an issue.
Still, he's willing to listen, and so is Mayor Neary.
"I think the best thing to do is put the facts on the table, look at the numbers," Mayor Neary said.
"We're more than willing to sit and listen. Let's figure something out."