NEW HAVEN — Can the city make money by providing more medical services through the Fire Department or by billing insurance companies for the services it already provides?
That’s the question two aldermen want the city to answer as lawmakers looking for more revenue sources looked back to a 2002 consultant’s report on reorganization in the fire service.
“One of the options they spoke about, and I don’t know why it was never taken up on, was to sever our contract with AMR (American Medical Response) and to start doing that ourselves,” said Alderman Mordechai Sandman, D-28. Sandman and Carl Goldfield, D-29, asked Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts to explore the feasibility. An alternative would be to start billing insurance companies for services the department provides now, which Sandman estimated would bring in “tens of thousands” of dollars annually.
Smuts, however, said the cost of setting up the billing operation would probably wipe out any revenue unless the city “piggy backs” on AMR’s billing.
The idea of the city starting its own ambulance corps never went anywhere in 2002 and would require a significant capital investment. Further, the department already has a shortage of paramedics to staff its two ambulances.
Smuts said he’d conduct the feasibility study, “but at this point, I can’t say how likely it would be, and there would be a lot of hurdles we would have to overcome to make it work.”
“I don’t want to raise expectations that we’ll all of a sudden create a new revenue stream, decrease response time for medical (emergencies) and have no down side. There are a lot of things that could make this not plausible,” he said, adding that AMR was doing a good job. Sandman also stressed that the Fire Department is providing excellent service and said he isn’t advocating for cuts in the fire suppression area, but would listen if that’s what’s recommended.
Firefighter Patrick Egan, president of Local 825, said the union would be open to discussions with the city, but would strongly oppose any reduction in the fire suppression division as a “trade off.”
Currently, the department operates 12 fire engines, four aerial trucks and two fire ambulances, but AMR handles most transports.