Shelton's Echo Hose seek to take over paramedic service in 2022, will save Medicare patient costs

Echo Hose Ambulance and Valley Emergency Medical Services late last week reached an agreement making Echo Hose the primary paramedic service for Shelton beginning in January 2022.

Echo Hose Ambulance and Valley Emergency Medical Services late last week reached an agreement making Echo Hose the primary paramedic service for Shelton beginning in January 2022.

Echo Hose Ambulance / Contributed photo

SHELTON — Echo Hose Ambulance is closer to being the city’s primary paramedic service, a move ambulance officials say will mean lower costs for Medicare patients.

Echo Hose Ambulance and Valley Emergency Medical Services late last week reached an agreement making Echo Hose the primary paramedic service for the city beginning in January 2022.

VEMS is a not-for-profit, community-supported pre-hospital advanced life support provider that serves the Valley communities and Monroe. Shelton has been a member since its inception in 1983.

Echo Hose officials now await state Department of Public Health approval. A hearing on the request is set for Thursday, with a final decision given within 45 days of the hearing.

City Emergency Management Director Michael Maglione said the agreement allows for bundle billing, meaning individuals who require ambulance transport and a paramedic will no longer receive two bills.

Before the agreement was in place, Maglione said, patients would receive a bill from Echo Hose for ambulance transport then another bill from VEMS for the paramedic service. Those who felt the budgetary impact the most, according to Maglione, were senior citizens on Medicare.

Medicare would cover most of the ambulance cost but none of the paramedic bill, which could total some $900, Maglione said. Board of Aldermen President John Anglace Jr. said VEMS had nearly 40 liens on Shelton properties to collect past fees, which prompted the city in July to file a petition with the state DPH seeking approval to shift paramedic service from VEMS to Echo Hose.

The agreement creates a bundle billing deal through which patients would receive only one bill, which would be covered — all but the deductible — for those on Medicare. The deal states that the bundle billing will begin Feb. 26, 2021.

“The bottom line is a large expense for Medicare patients goes away,” Maglione said, adding that he would expect faster response times as well.

Echo Hose Chief Michael Chaffee said the service is “pleased to work with our City to continually improve our EMS system.”

Echo Hose Assistant Chief Joe Laucella echoed Chaffee’s sentiments.

“We are happy to be able to work alongside the city of Shelton and VEMS to further improve the local EMS operations,” Laucella added.

Laucella would not comment on what organizational changes will be required until the state DPH offers its final ruling on the city’s petition.

Echo Hose Ambulance has licensed paramedics and has been able to provide primary advanced life support treatment during transport when VEMS paramedics are unavailable — for instance, if they are on other emergency calls elsewhere in the Valley.

The Shelton EMS Commission at a special virtual meeting Feb. 11 voted to accept the Echo Hose-VEMS agreement by a 4-0 vote with one abstention. Commission Chair Noreen McGorty, also a VEMS board member, abstained.

Commission member Eric Graf praised the agreement as a positive step for the city, a stance echoed by fellow commissioners Karen Tomko-McGovern and Christopher Motasky.

VEMS Board Chair Jared Heon would not comment on the agreement until his board holds a formal vote. One was set for Feb. 12, but no information about the vote was immediately available.

As part of the agreement, VEMS would receive $1,750 from Echo Hose each month until January as VEMS transitions its business operation covering the Valley without Shelton in the mix. The agreement gives VEMS the option to extend the bundle billing portion of the deal for an additional six months to June 30, 2022.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com