TOPSHAM SELECTMEN met Thursday, at which point they voted to outsource emergency medical service billing. CHRIS QUATTRUCCI/THE TIMES RECORD

TOPSHAM SELECTMEN met Thursday, at which point they voted to outsource emergency medical service billing. CHRIS QUATTRUCCI/THE TIMES RECORD

TOPSHAM

Topsham will look for outside help when it comes to Emergency Medical Service billing in a move public safety officials say will help free up staff and increase revenue.

Selectmen unanimously voted Thursday to allow McLaughlin to enter a one year contract with Emergency Medical Services out of Windham. The billing company takes a percentage of revenues, of which Topsham’s fire department has been around $300,000 annually.

The current estimated cost for the service is $12,000 to $13,000.

Topsham already pays $4,500 for billing software, a number McLaughlin said always increases every year and can be removed from next year’s budget.

The decision comes after Town Manager Rich Roedner met with both Fire Chief Chris McLaughlin and Police Chief Christopher Lewis to explore the possibility of adding billing duties to a part-time clerical position in the police department office. Roedner learned in those conversations adding EMS billing would present too many challenges.

“The police has additional plans for that position,” Roedner said. “There’s also a movement for certification of people who do the coding for ambulance. It’s an additional level of training that would be needed.”

Roedner told selectmen the additional work was being done by the police chief and lieutenant. McLaughlin recommended the change, hoping to increase revenues while eliminating the need for a firefighter to handle the billing.

“I just want to reiterate the major reason we’re doing this is to get it into the hands of people that do it professionally,” said McLaughlin. “Even if there was time to have the secretary at PD do it, I still think you get the best bang for your buck by going with a company.”

McLaughlin had previously told the council his staff person could process about 37 calls in 16 hours of work. He noted a potential certification requirement and Medicare billing can be confusing and time consuming. It’s a burden selectmen ultimately decided not to place on an inhouse clerical position or firefighter.

“We can do this for a year contract and if it goes how I think it will go, how history says it will go, then we can enter a three-year contract.” said McLaughlin.

“I think we fall behind on our billing and following up on collections,” said Select Board member Ruth Lyons. “And, I think in past years we’ve written off quite a bit of money which doesn’t help the taxpayers of Topsham. I do believe you’ll come out even or better.”

In his initial proposal, McLauglin noted other departments in Maine have increased revenues 10 percent just by switching billing companies.

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