To the editor:
I have complained to the chief of the Fire Department and two of the selectmen in Salem about the cost that is charged for using the ambulance service. The chief points to Chapter 129 of the town municipal code that he said was passed in 1963 at the Town Meeting.
My concern is that seniors are the ones who use this service the most, as you undoubtedly will when you age. Those who are on fixed incomes are the ones who can least afford the service. Did you know an eight to 10-mile ride to a hospital from Salem is billed at $500? After Medicare and insurance pays the town their portion of that bill the user must pay over $200.
Is $300 not enough for a 10-mile ride?
Some seniors, particularly those living in subsidized housing, use it frequently as they age. Ask them; they do not like this but do not want to make waves. They are those who can least afford it.
I am told that if you come with hat in hand and say, “Please, sir, I cannot afford this,” the selectmen can forgo the extra cost that Medicare and insurance does not pay.
I also notice that, instead of this being billed from the Fire Department, it is outsourced to an out-of-town, out-of-state provider.
The chief explains that he would have to add a clerk, which would cost additional pay and benefits. This may be the case. But is there no one at the department with the time to send out bills?
This, in my estimation, is double taxation. We buy the ambulance, we pay the salary of the EMTs on stand-by, then we are charged a fee to use the service. If we follow this to a logical conclusion, why are we not charged for police service when we need it, the animal control officer’s service, snow removal on our streets and other services that respond to our needs?
The chief tells me if this is not billed separately, it may cost an extra 30 cents on the tax rate to cover the revenue.
Another argument the chief makes is that this is approximately what private services charge for ambulance service and other cities and towns charge even more.
My contention is that private companies are not subsidized by taxation and they have to pay for their equipment and employees.
Other cities and towns, in my estimation, are also double-taxing their citizens.
This outrageous double taxation needs to be scrapped immediately. Please contact your selectmen.
Robert P. Savoie