Who/What is Second Alarmer's?
Second Alarmer's Rescue Squad (SARS) is a 501(C)(3) non-profit Emergency Medical Services Agency that provides primary EMS coverage to seven municipalities in Eastern Montgomery County. More about our organization can be found by clicking here.
Does SARS charge a fee for service?
SARS responds to over 12,000 911 calls for service each year. Many but not all of these calls result in a patient being transported to an area hospital. When SARS treats and transports a patient we do charge a fee for service the same as any other medical provider. These fees are often, but not always, covered by insurance. In cases where a patient's insurance does not cover these fees the patient is responsible for the cost of service. For many calls such as fire standbys, police incidents, or accidents that do not result in a transport, SARS is unable to bill for services.
I received a bill for $1,900 dollars. That is a lot of money. If that is what SARS charges everyone why does SARS need more money?
Emergency Medical Service fees these days can be quite high, we will be the first to admit this. Unfortunately over 75% of our patients are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or similar programs which only allow and pay for a small portion of the actual cost of providing service. We are required by federal law to write off the rest. Many other patients are covered by Medicaid programs that provide even less reimbursement than Medicare. Other patients are covered by what is referred to as "commercial insurance" (Blue Cross, Aetna, Signa etc.), the good news is that many of these policies do cover our fees in full but the bad news is that due to changes in the way these companies make their payments, SARS frequently does not receive the payment with many patients "pocketing" funds sent to them that were intended to be turned over to SARS. Finally there are some patients who do not have insurance and who simply do not pay their bill.
What does this mean as far as funding?
This means that SARS receives only a fraction of the amount that we bill each year, despite our best efforts to collect what is due to us. In 2017 we were required to write off over $8 million dollars due to Medicare policies and other similar regulations. Another $150,000 was written off due to our membership program, and patients still owe us over $1,295,000.
Is SARS doing something wrong if you are unable to collect all of your fees?
No- the challenges SARS face are the same that are faced by most if not all EMS agencies across Pennsylvania and other parts of the country. Below are a few links to recent articles and publications that illustrate this further:
Montgomery News Article
Inquirer article on ambulance subscriptions
PA Township News
Who will rescue the rescuers?
PA SR6 Report
Patients Pocketing Insurance Checks
What is SARS fund drive/subscription program?
Information on SARS fund drive can be found by clicking here.
I still have more questions.
Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will continue to add information and answers to this website as we receive additional questions.