Rescue Inc.: moving on, post-Brattleboro

It is likely that 14 more-prosperous Rescue Inc. towns have subsidized Brattleboro’s likely-higher uncollectible accounts and lower overall insured reimbursement rate

PUTNEY — Rescue Inc. charges the same per-capita annual fee to 15 member towns: subsidizing uncollectible accounts and partially subsidizing lower Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates compared to those of commercial health insurers, as is clear from its public IRS Form 990 financial statements.

According to data from Rescue Inc. member towns from the U.S. Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey:

• Brattleboro's median household income is lowest.

• Brattleboro's poverty rate is highest: an indicator of Medicaid eligibility and reimbursement rates.

• Brattleboro's population of those aged 65 and older is average: an indicator of Medicare eligibility and reimbursement rates.

• Brattleboro's uninsured rate is highest: an indicator of uncollectible accounts.

It is likely that 14 more-prosperous Rescue Inc. towns have subsidized Brattleboro's likely-higher uncollectible accounts and lower overall insured reimbursement rate.

Alone after June 30, how will Brattleboro fund these shortfalls? Does the new $6,250 monthly contract with Golden Cross Ambulance anticipate them? If not, who pays?

Some Brattleboro folks have spoken publicly of “mutual aid.” Rescue Inc. is mutual aid. Brattleboro can't leave and stay.

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Rescue Inc.'s territory beyond Brattleboro includes about 4,500 second homes occupied by holiday, vacation, and weekend populations who are as likely to need emergency medical services while they're here.

In Stratton, an estimated 93 percent of all homes are second homes; in Wardsboro, 64 percent; and in Jamaica, 60 percent. (About 10 percent of Brattleboro homes are second homes.)

Losing no revenue from its six towns, Rescue Inc.'s Townshend Station should be unaffected by Brattleboro's exit, and could recruit Athens, Grafton, Londonderry and Windham to be served by Grace Cottage Hospital if Springfield Hospital phases out inpatient care to avoid or resolve a second bankruptcy - possibly required by the Green Mountain Care Board.

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If it were to lose about 40 percent of its revenue, Rescue Inc.'s Brattleboro station will be operating in, but not within, the town while striving to sustain service levels in eight surrounding towns.

Having committed $114,000 of taxpayers' money to exiting Rescue Inc. now while consultants study whether this is a good idea, the Brattleboro Selectboard members have unanimously obliged 37,000 innocent residents of Rescue Inc.'s 15-town territory to suffer the consequences now.

Losing Brattleboro's 12,000 residents and municipal subsidy now, Rescue Inc. faces the challenge of sustaining service levels throughout its far-flung territory beyond Brattleboro: a challenge that must be overcome now for the public good, because everyone will need emergency medical services someday.

My previous Commons commentary [“Rescuing Rescue Inc.,” Viewpoint, May 18] demonstrates that the state of Vermont has jurisdiction over emergency medical services.

Fourteen members of our Vermont General Assembly represent we whom Rescue Inc. serves in Vermont.

Reps. Bos-Lun, Burke, Coffey, Gannon, Goldman, Kornheiser, Long, Mrowicki, Pajala, Partridge, Sibilia, and Toleno, and Sens. Balint and White, how are you representing us now?

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