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Unpaid EMS Bills Exceed $780,000




Fulton County is owed $781,297.16, for emergency medical services, but won’t collect that much, Vond Hall, Fulton County administrator, said last week.

A state audit of the county billing for EMS services turned up irregularities, which were disclosed to the Fulton County Commissioners in May.

The commissioners fired Bob Hartman, Fulton County Emergency Medical Service and Emergency Management Agency director, on June 16.

Hall said the $781,297.16 covers the period from Jan. 1, 2005, when the county started handling its own billing for ambulance services, to mid-April 2008.

During that time, there were 5,595 ambulance runs, which include non-emergency transfers, basic life support, and advanced life support. The bulk of the billing problems were with non-emergency transfers.

The 5,595 ambulance runs generated about $2.5 million in bills.

Hall said what the county charges for an ambulance run is not necessarily what it collects.

County policy states that for county residents, the EMS service will accept what a medical insurance provider pays as payment in full.

For example, if a county resident has a $300 bill, but the insurance company only pays $100, the county will accept the $100 and write off the difference.

Between January 2005 and mid-April, the county wrote off about $572,000.

There was another approximately $5,800 charge-off that Hall could not explain.

The county has up to one year to submit bills to Medicare, and 18 months to submit bills to Medicaid. Medicare and Medicaid are federal healthcare programs.

Hall said he is confident the county won’t collect bills for services performed prior to those timelines.

So, the county won’t receive all the $781,298.16 it’s owed.

How much it will receive is not known.

Rod Cheney, interim EMSEMA director, told the commissioners on June 23, one week after Hartman’s firing, that 365 bills had been submitted to Medicare.

All 365 bills were rejected, Hall said.

“The good news is Medicare tells us what was wrong with the filing,” so they can be corrected and resubmitted.

But Hall said every day that goes by means more bills that miss the 12-month cutoff, and, in turn, less money the county will recover.

Life Star

Prior to January 2005, Life Star, a Toledo-area based prisize vate company, was handling the county EMS billing. At Hartman’s recommendation, the commissioners took the billing business away from Life Star and turned it over to the EMS office as a cost-saving measure.

Life Star is now assisting the county in cleaning up the billing problems. It was estimated the job will take two months.

Hall said even if a bill is beyond the Medicare and Medicaid cutoff dates, it will still be submitted, so it can be shown to state auditors.

Reaction?

When asked if the EMS system will have to cut operating expenses as a result of the billing problem, Hall said county officials can’t react until they know how much money they will eventually receive.

The EMS system is not out of money, he said.

The goal is to maintain enough balance in the EMS funds to operate the system for one year if voters fail to renew the two-mill EMS levy.


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