SANFORD — The city council tonight is expected to vote on a program to assist uninsured residents with their ambulance bills and those who have a balance on their bill after insurance has paid what it will.

The measure comes as the city council two weeks ago voted to increase ambulance billing rates for the first time since 2006.

The program will offer those without insurance the ability to apply for a 20 percent discount, along with a payment plan for residents who would have difficulty in promptly paying their bill in full.

Patients with an account balance remaining after insurance has paid may be eligible for a 10 percent reduction if the balance is paid within 30 days.

Sanford Fire Department currently honors the local hospital’s determination for charity care and will continue to do so under the proposed policy.

Until now, the basic rate Sanford has billed all ambulance clients is $365; with rates of $435 and $630 for increased services. Now, the rates are $700, $800 and $1,050, respectively. Fire Chief Jeff Rowe has said the new rates are in line with those charged by four other municipalities in the region. In Sanford, as in many other communities, the fire department provides emergency ambulance service. Last year, the service made 2,502 runs.

While private insurance carriers are likely to bear the brunt of the hike because Medicare and MaineCare reimbursements are fixed, there are some patients who are uninsured. Private insurance picks up all or part of the tab for 13.55 percent of ambulance runs, with self-pay clients making up 8.28 percent of the mix. Medicare clients make up slightly more than 60 percent of ambulance runs, with MaineCare coming in second at 15.76 percent.

The city council meets at 7 p.m. tonight, unless there’s a storm-related cancellation, at the city council chambers on the third floor of City Hall.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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