1. #1
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    Default Fire Department Billing

    I've been checking out a number of Fire Dept. Billing Services lately for my department. We do Fire/Rescue work as usual, but we also have a salvage truck in which we respond to Structure Fires out of our district and help with salvaging and securing a structure. (Plywood, etc.) We know that a resident's homeowners insurance allows an amount of money for the fire dept which is built into the premium the resident pays, and we've been looking to bill the homeowners insurance to try to get reimbursement for the supplies we have used, fuel, etc. We do NOT want to bill the resident directly, and most billing companies I have seen do not bill a resident directly unless the fire dept tells them to, and the billing company only goes to the insurance for reimbursement. I realize that it's not easy to get money from insurance companies, but my dept doesnt see why we shouldn't try to get some reimbursement that is allocated for Fire Dept's in homeowners insurance policies, especially since the resident is paying for it in their policies anyhow. My department is a small department and does not receive money from the borough, and we strictly get our funds from grants, donations, and fundraisers.

    I have checked out a variety of billing companies, and for whatever reason, only two have returned phone calls, or have sent me information. Does anybody have any suggestions on a company to try? Or, does anybody's department do the billing themselves? And where would I get information on how to do this? Could we send the insurance a copy of our incident report, and a breakdown of equipment used, etc.? Or does it need to be presented to an insurance company in a different way?

    Any help in this matter would be very much appreciated. I appreciate your time in reading this as well.

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    We do the billing in house. We are very small vollie dept. Just get the insurance info from the homeowner and we bill the insurance company. Most of them pay. We only bill a small amount to cover our cost.

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    One problem we ran into is the fact that Pennsylvania has no law on the books to force the insurance company to pay the fire department. We enacted a billing service a few years ago (email or pm me if you want to know which one) with horrible results. They promise dump trucks of money, but we haven't recovered more than 3 or 4 of the calls we've submitted, and they were no where near what the invoice they provided were for.

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    zoom, I'm part of a small vollie dept too. I believe our best bet is to bill in house as well. What all does your company send the insurance companies, and do you print it up in invoice form, or do you just send them a breakdown of what equipment was used for how long, etc. ? I don't believe an insurance company would send the resident a bill with the balance of what the insurance didnt cover. I believe the insurance would just pay what they cover, if anything, and if we'd want the rest, we'd have to bill the resident in which we DO NOT want to do.

    Thanks for the info so far both of you zoom and quint. Quint, im not able to PM you, but I know exactly what you mean by billing companies that have horrible results. We had one and they said they billed over 10 incidents for us. 6 mvas, 2 structure fires, 2 salvage operations, and we never saw a dime. I realize alot of insurance companies do not like to pay, but usually auto insurance will pay even a small amount for mva's.

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    Honestly the majority of our incidents are mva related. I don't know what the difficulty is in recovering the costs. We've run incidents where we use 5-6 bags of oil dry or 20 gal of foam concentrate. Plus most of the people passing through aren't citizens of the town, just commuters.

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    We'd be billing for reimbursement for mostly Structure Fires, Salvage Operations, and things like that. We only average 5 mva's a year in our borough.

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    We just started to use www.covenantbilling.com - This company is easy to work with and will send some one to talk with your Fire Department. We had about 10 local departments at our meeting and they put on a very good information meeting. The fire department who hosted the meeting has received 18,000.00 so far for their runs.

    REMEMBER - IF IT IS RED AND WET AND NOT YOURS - DON'T TOUCH IT!

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    At Beach City VFD we use Revenue Rescue for our billing company. You do not have to pay them anything unless you get paid. They take a percentage of the billing income and send you the rest. We have also found that the insurance companies will only pay a max of $100 per structure fire, at least in most of our cases.

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    We were going to use Revenue Rescue until our dept legal advisor advised us how claim appeals are handled in a claims court in Texas. Our company is in Pa. That's why we didnt go with Revenue Rescue.

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    Default Billing

    I had the same results as yours in terms of a lot of the smaller companies not getting back to me, or sending me information, and then I was only able to get voicemail.

    Ultimately I went with www.revenue-rescue.com because they almost overly suffocated me with returning and following up on my calls.

    Although I'm in Virginia, I didn't notice a big difference in the way the claims were handled from one state to the other, since the insurance policies are the same from state to state, so I'm a little confused as to why that would be a problem from PA to Texas when it isn't from VA to Texas, but maybe that's why I'm not an attorney.

    We almost when with Covenant, and we backed out for two reasons. To begin with, extrications were a little too medical for them, and so they weren't able to bill them out in a way which would get us paid, and heavy rescues is a lot of what we bill for.

    Additionally, they wanted to charge us a per claim fee in order to pull the police report, and the time lapse would cost us a few incidents because everyone else would beat us to the punch (especially on extrications), and there was no policy money left, and besides, we don't get enough claims paid to justify having to pay out ten dollars a claim.

    All in all, even though Revenue Rescue's commission was almost double, I've ended up being glad that board talked me into them.

    Basically, though, no matter who you use, I think that you have to stay on them pretty well to make sure that everything is runing like a well oiled machine. Frankly, it just doesn't tend to be the tightest operation in the world no matter how you do it.

    Cal

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    Default Fire Department Billing

    The first step when considering fire department billing is to research your state statutes. Ultimately, your department is responsible for your actions and not necessarily the billing company, which may be in another state. Don't put 100% of your trust in a national billing firm to give you legal advice. Keeping current on legislation in multiple states is a daunting task. In my opinion, a billing company in your own state may be a better option, or do it yourself. Some departments are concerned about sending local dollars out-of-state. If you consider state and local economy important, keep it close to home.

    In my home state, Indiana, the Office of State Fire Marshal annually issues a schedule of allowable fire department fees. State statutes permit a fire department to hire an agent for fire billing, but not Haz-Mat. For example, a volunteer department in Indiana cannot use a billing agency to collect for mitigation of a fuel spill at an auto accident. The devil is in the details! The statutes also contain restrictions on use of the funds and requirements for public notice. Other states may have similar requirements. If you run a business (Fire Department) you need to know the rules.

    As a practical matter, fire billing is not rocket science. The major, national billing firms would have you think otherwise. Your NFIRS fire incident report and an invoice/statement are usually all that is required. In Indiana, fire departments are required to attach the fire incident report to the bill, for submission to the insurance company. Your state may have different requirements. Knowing the rules before you contact a billing company can prevent or reduce headaches down the road.

    My firm does not work outside Indiana by choice. We wish to be close enough to meet with our clients in person and establish a close working relationship, a team effort. Hopefully, you can find someone like us in your state!

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    [QUOTE=quint1officer;649571]One problem we ran into is the fact that Pennsylvania has no law on the books to force the insurance company to pay the fire department.

    We ran into that problem too. Residents are charge in the premium for this coverage, but the insurance company is not required to pay.
    However,
    Your local municipality can pass an ordinance giving the fire department the authority to bill insurance companies for services rendered and supplies used.
    Search the internet for ordinances pertaining to fire department billing in Pennsylvania, there are quite a few out there.

    Our fire company did our own billing for a long time, but it has become very time consuming. We now have an agreement with our local EMS service to bill on behalf of the fire company for a small percentage of the collections. One thing you need to include in your invoice is the company/department's EIN - employers identification number, some insurance companies require that.

    FIREJKP22, you stated that you will not bill the resident just the insurance company, be prepared, our company has received a few phone calls because the insurance company denied the claim and then sent the invoice to the resident. Make sure your intentions are clear to everyone (municipality and residents) or it could become a PR problem, especially if you have a fire tax.

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