One of our neighbors has started our village off on an online experiment – a networking attempt using the Nextdoor web site’s structure. You’ll find it at Trumansburg Nextdoor.
Unlike other social networking systems online, this one requires a personal verification by regular old postal mail. They send a postcard to confirm your address, with information you need to enter. So, no snoopers from Enfield could crash this party.
So far, there are just three of us signed up. The way the system works is that, if there aren’t 10 more verified members in the next two weeks, Trumansburg Nextdoor will be shut down.
A network like this, used to spread news throughout our community, didn’t exist in our parents’ generation. Whether Trumansburg Nextdoor itself takes off or not, there will eventually be one or several such networks that do catch on, and that will change our lives significantly.
The technology is here, though, and I say that it’s better for us not to back away from it in fear. Is anyone else in?
Trumansburg-area anti-fracking activists may want to head on down the road a bit to Hector tomorrow night. I just got this following message forwarded to me by a concerned citizen of the town of Ulysses:
On December 13th, 2011 at 7pm concerned residents will present a petition to the town Board of Hector, NY calling for the board to enact a local ban or a moratorium for hydrofracking in the town of Hector NY. Since the town hall can only safely accommodate 60 people, additional citizens will be holding a candlelight vigil outside the town hall.
In recent months citizen’s groups in Hector have been working to educate the board on the inherent dangers of hydrofracking, including health and safety issues, overall quality of life and the negative impact to the local economy, which depends heavily on tourism, wineries and agriculture.
The petition effort began in the early autumn of 2011 and is being presented now because of concern that the state DEC may begin issuing permits for hydrofracking in 2012.
The Hector Town Hall is located at 5097 State Route 227, Burdett, NY. Board meetings are the second Tuesday of every month from 7-9pm.
Josh Harben, Volunteer, Media/Public Relations
Hector Clean Water Initiative
Skeptics of the reality of global warming got together to conduct a review of temperature data conducted by scientists at the University of East Anglia. They were looking for evidence of tampering with the numbers, and seeking evidence that global temperatures have not actually been rising over the last few generations. The effort to find a conspiracy behind “ClimateGate” was funded by the Koch brothers, billionaire global warming deniers. In spite of this, the researchers could not help but conclude that, actually, there was no evidence of data tampering, and that global warming really is taking place, after all.
Of course, global trends are not necessarily the same as local ones. There could be global warming but local cooling here in Trumansburg.
Given this afternoon’s snow, climate is on my mind. So, after I looked at tomorrow’s weather forecast, to see what kind of clothes my children will need, I peeked over at the record and high and record low temperatures for each day in the month of October. I wanted to see if there might be any pattern in this collection of extreme temperature events that would indicate a change in our local climate over time.
There was such a pattern, it turns out. The record high temperature, for all the days of October taken together, took place an average of 29 years ago. The record low temperature for all the days in October, however, took place an average of 35 years ago.
This data is suggesting a local warming trend, but not a very dramatic one. Of course, I’m only taking into account record highs and lows, not the broad range of temperatures in between, and I’m only looking at one month out of the twelve.
For what a quick after-bedtime survey is worth, however, my curiosity is satisfied for the present.
A couple of months ago, my older son asked me whether there could be flying squirrels living in Trumansburg. We looked up their range, and saw that our village is well within it.
“That doesn’t mean that they’re actually living here,” I said.
“But they could be,” he said, to which I nodded my agreement.
“It would be difficult to know for sure, though, because they’re nocturnal. Keep an eye out, and you never know what you might see.”
Tonight, we received a form of confirmation I hadn’t considered. One of our house cats brought in a field specimen for us to look at, right after we finished reading a chapter of Never Cry Wolf. It’s been a good night for natural history.
Elizabeth Thomas sends us the following note about an important event tomorrow. If you’re like me, you’ve got a few broken electronic devices around the house that you haven’t been sure about how to dispose of. Tomorrow is the opportunity to do so responsibly.
“Have you been unsure of the proper disposal method for all your electronic items? Have you been holding on to it just waiting for a way to keep it out of the landfill? Well, Back-to-Democracy has the answer for you!!
Pull out your old computers, monitors, cables, modems, cell phones, toasters, TV’s keyboards, mice, etc, etc and bring them to the E-Waste Collection Day on Saturday October 22 from 9:00am-3:00pm at the Trumansburg Farmer’s Market. All items collected will be processed by REACT Recycling of Horseheads and REACT will pay for the materials collected. REACT returns Over 95% of the collected material REACT will divert from the landfill to become useable product again.
Back-to-Democracy will use 1/2 the proceeds to support its programming activities and the other 1/2 will be donated to Habitat for Humanity’s Trumansburg Build Project!”
Mark Oros writes in asking about the history of a famous Trumansburg tree, now long gone. He calls it the Umbrella Tree – and as soon as he used that name, I knew which tree he was talking about.
It was the tree that stood, until about two years ago, in front of the Russel I. Doig Middle School. It had a great thick trunk that went up to a height a little bit above where an adult’s head might be. At the top of that trunk, however, the branches suddenly thinned to a small diameter, and hung down in a weeping habit.
Oros wants to know more about what the story of that tree was, asking the following questions:
“1. When was it planted?
2. Who planted it?
3. What type of tree was it?
4. Any special references or dedications?”
I have another question. What caused the tree to die?
Does anyone out there know the answers to these questions about this magnificent tree?
By Allen Carstensen, on September 26, 2011, 8:50 pm
The title above is a direct quote from Eric Dodge who represents MedEx, the third party billing company, that the Village of Trumansburg is now using to bill residents for ambulance calls.
I used to think that I was safe, and that the uninsured and the underinsured, were the only ones put at risk by the new ambulance billing policy. But I’ve heard that it is common for private insurers to deny coverage for a variety of reasons, so I wrote a few emails to Brian Snyder (the manager of our EMS) and Eric Dodge to get their opinions on whether or not those of us that are well insured might also be at risk of getting stuck with a large bill, and therefore be reluctant to call for help when needed.
I attached a copy of the pertinent section of description of benefits from my own policy - (Empire Plan – subsidiary of United Health – the largest private insurer in the country)
Here is the email exchange,
Brian and Eric,
When I read the attached description of benefits, it seems to me that the Empire plan has left themselves some wiggle room that might allow them to refuse coverage. In order to feel certain that I would be covered I would need a law degree, with a focus on insurance, and complete legal definitions of,
“medically necessary non emergency transportation”
“licensed ambulance service”
“local professional ambulance”
Since our EMS is partially volunteer, and partially taxpayer funded, I suspect that a clever lawyer in the employ of Empire, might be able to find a way to avoid paying. Perhaps, they would graciously donate up to $50.
Please clear up my confusion.
Here is the response from Eric Dodge who represents MedEx, the third party billing company that is contracting with the Village to handle sending the bills,
This is a multi-faceted question, and I will do my best to try and answer it!
All the insurances leave themselves “wiggle room” in regards to various reasons to deny claims. With the private insurances, we have dealt with this rather well for many years. They have always rejected claims for medical necessity, having the term “Volunteer” in their name, wearing their socks on the wrong feet, etc. We appeal every denial that is “workable”. The NYS GML’s do allow for any ambulance (except for Fire based units) to bill for service. We point this fact out to every insurance provider that uses the “Volunteer” excuse.
Medical necessity is a bit trickier, but still manageable. There are always going to be some of your responses that will be rejected for lack of medical necessity, and that will be so weakly documented, that we just will not be able to appeal them. It happens, especially in a State that mandates EMS transport patients that insist upon using the ambulance for the most minor issues. Mostly though, our compliance procedures allow us to bill the claim appropriately to Medicare ( and the private insurances as well) for a denial, which then allows us to bill the patient. It’s the proper (but not popular) way to do it. And eventually, it should slow down the number of calls that you receive that are unnecessary.
Even with all of these factors that insurance providers use to deny claims, MedEx is still averaging a calls paid rate of over 82%. That’s well above the industry average of 65%.
I hope this helps answer the questions Brian. Please let me know if I missed something!
Eric doesn’t seem terribly fond of these private, for profit, health insurers.
His response reinforces my suspicions that a substantial percentage of claims will be denied. Remember, that the Village intends to bill patients directly if their insurance provider denies coverage. Eric boasts that on average MedEx is able to collect for 82% of calls.
So, before calling 911, everyone in Trumansburg must realize that there is a good chance that they will encure a debt that they may not be able to pay. The uninsured and underinsured are the most at risk, but apparently having good coverage (such as that which is provided to Cornell employees) is no guarantee of payment of claims. But don’t worry, the Village charity policy won’t take more than 30% of your yearly income!
I wrote to Eric Dodge again to ask if, when he says MedEx is able to collect 82% of the time, he means that they collect from insurance companies 82% of the time. He responded,
Hi Allen. When we say “82%”, that means overall. If any money is
received on any call at all, it shows as ‘Paid’. Not just by insurances,
but by patients too.
We do not keep track of how many claims are denied by insurances, as it
sometimes seems like a standard practice of the insurance industry to deny
everything at times! We appeal all denials as part of our process, if the
denials are truly medically necessary and reasonable. We do pretty well
on those appeals, which is part of the reason we can hit that 82%.
Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.
read that again,
We do not keep track of how many claims are denied by insurances, as it
sometimes seems like a standard practice of the insurance industry to deny
everything at times!
The Village Board has decided to terminate the single payer nature of our EMS, and ask for dirty money from these heartless insurers. This will sooner or later result in a resident refusing to call for help when they should.
By Allen Carstensen, on September 17, 2011, 11:12 am
Apparently Ron Paul doesn’t really care if someone dies for lack of health insurance as 45,000 Americans do each year. He dodges the question by suggesting that the church will take care of them, but somehow the church has been missing 45,000/year. He clearly doesn’t think it is the responsibility of government, as every other industrialized country in the world does. This isn’t too surprising. Ron Paul is a Tea Party, libertarian Republican.
What is surprising, is that all of the Democrats on the Trumansburg Village Board feel the same way about the risk to the lives of their constituents, that ambulance billing has brought us. Mayor Marty Petrovic, Debra Watkins, and Rob Cassetti, all Village Board Democrats, are in favor of ambulance billing. They, and Dave Kerness, Democrat, on the Town Board, feel that it is each individual’s personal responsibility to carry sufficient insurance to reimburse the Village after their emergency care. If this deters some from calling when they should ……… too bad.
Dave Kerness was nominated at the Democratic caucus to run again for his seat in November. He said, in his speech, that he was a good listener, but I’ve asked twice to meet with him……. what’s up with that, Dave?
It wouldn’t be too hard to stop this. Influencing your local government is much more feasible than stopping the insanity on a federal level. Perhaps we should get organized.
You could start by writing your Democratic representatives.
By Allen Carstensen, on September 8, 2011, 7:21 am
Officials seek budget voting power in new contract
By Aaron Munzer
Correspondent – The Ithaca Journal
TRUMANSBURG — De bate over control of the Trumansburg Emergency Medical Services depart ment’s budget and the pow ers of a new committee formed to oversee ambu lance billing continued last week at a joint meeting of the four municipalities in volved.
With advice from emer gency medical services at torney and consultant Brad Pinsky, village and town boards for Ulysses, Hector and Covert made progress in working out kinks in billing policies. But the dis cussion halted when Ulysses board members re iterated that they would like formalized voting power in the newly established con tract. That proposal was a non-starter for the village.
Pinsky told them that re solving their arguments was in the best interests of their residents.
“You only have this (EMS department) because you all got together,” he said. “… get over it, and we’ll solve the contract issues.”
The village has started billing residents for ambu lance service. The towns have not committed, and will continue to cover their billing costs through taxes. The core of the debate is simple: The Ulysses Town Board has said it would like voting power that amounts to the 46 percent of the department’s cost that it paid last year, based on the town’s volume of calls.
Trumansburg, Hector and Covert pay the remain ing costs, and because the towns contract with the vil lage for service, the village makes decisions regarding the department.
“We are the largest sin gle payer and as such we should have some real, for mal mechanism … in the decision-making, both poli cy and financial,” Ulysses Town Supervisor Roxanne Marino said.
According to Trumans burg Mayor Marty Petro vic, that’s not an option, as the EMS department is governed by the village. By law it can’t allow other boards to vote on the de partment’s budget. The vil lage does hold an annual budget meeting, however, where members of other boards can ask questions and offer input, he said.
“To me, it sounds like they think we’re not man aging this correctly,” Petrovic said in response to the request by Ulysses for more decision making power over the budget. “I hope this isn’t the case, because we’re looking at billing to keep costs down.”
Petrovic said creating a true municipal cooper ative like Tompkins Coun ty’s health care consortium is a different process, but one that he would be open to considering.
“We’ll keep pursuing how far we want to take shared decision-making,” he said. “I can see their position… so we’re going to try to find a way this can all work.”
Marino said Ulysses offi cials’ suggested the village board would maintain the final decision, but would need to override the rec ommendation of the man aging cooperative by a su per majority.
The four boards plan to meet again sometime this month to reach a conclusion. “I think we’re going in the right direction, but I don’t know why they are reluctant to make us a real partner, with a vote,” Ker ness said.
On Sunday as the tail of Hurricane Irene was whipping through the trees and threatening to bring them and the power lines down, I started to think about my last meal, not my last one ever but possibly the last hot one for some time. The extra virgin olive oil wasn’t what I reached for. I went for the pork.
My husband and I belong to a pork CSA. Every other week, we receive fresh pork and ‘hand-crafted’ charcuterie from the Piggery, a farm in Trumansburg in the Finger Lakes region of New York. That week’s share included pig cheek medallions and pork confit.”